Sep 28, 2023

Robotic surgery: how does it work?


Robotics is disrupting surgery in many ways, being used for more interventions every year. Time for a deepdive in this not-so-scifi-anymore field. Part 2: how does robot assisted surgery work?

A closer look at the surgical robot

A surgical robot consists of three main parts: a control unit, the robot itself and the surgeon console. The robot stands next to the patient, the surgeon controls it via the console. In other words, the surgeon does not need to be sterile during a robotic procedure.

The surgical robot: minimally invasive, maximally flexible

Let’s take a closer look at the robot itself first. It has several mobile arms, to which different instruments and an endoscopic camera can be attached. A team of nurses support the surgeon with, for example, switching the instruments when necessary.

Minimally invasive

In contrast to traditional open surgery, robotic surgery requires only a few small incisions, through which the robot arms can enter the patient’s body. This is similar to laparoscopic surgery, but in this case the robot arms enter the patient’s body. Procedures are very precise and patients will usually recover faster.

More movement possibilities

The surgical robot’s arms and instruments offer the surgeon much flexibility. A human being only has two hands, a robot can offer more. Additionally, the robot arms can move in more directions than we can move our hands. This makes it easier to access the patient’s anatomy, which in turn can speed up the whole surgery.

Precise and controlled movements

A final advantage that we’d like to highlight here is the fact that the robot does not necessarily copy the surgeon’s exact movements: it scales them down to minimal motions that would otherwise be difficult to carry out. In other words, the surgeon has more freedom to move but also gains precision and control.

robotic surgery

The console as the surgeon’s control center

The surgeon controls the robot arms from inside the console. They use hand, finger, and foot movements to control the different arms. Haptic feedback technology ensures that they ‘feel’ the patient’s body through the controls in their hands.

Visual input

Of course, the surgeon must see what they’re doing. One of the robot arms inside the patient’s body has a camera adjusted to it. The console contains a surgical 3D display that streams the video from this camera. The advantage here is that the surgeon has a magnified view of the area he’s working in.

High-speed connectivity

The safety of a procedure relies for a great deal on the surgeon having an excellent view with almost no delay. In other words, the OR infrastructure must enable excellent technological integration, with high-speed connectivity between camera, surgeon console, and robot arms.

3D vision

3D visualization is a key technology building block of surgical robots. It can improve spatial understanding, enabling surgeons to perform the procedure with improved precision. On the other hand, watching the screen should not be distracting or tiring, as procedures can last multiple hours on end.

We can support your project in robotic surgery

Barco’s global team of healthtech experts and engineers has 30+ years of experience in the technologies that drive innovation in robotic surgery today. Our expertise ranges from 3D visualization technology and video integration in the OR, to advancements in remote collaboration.