Dr. Kemp Kernstine, a pioneer in minimally invasive surgical techniques and chief of thoracic surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, said the first robot-assisted surgery was performed in 1985.
Today's minimally invasive procedures call for the surgeon, instead of directly moving the instruments, to use either a direct manipulator or a computer control to maneuver the instruments precisely, Kernstine said.
A manipulator allows the surgeon to perform the normal movements associated with the surgery while the robotic arms carry out those movements using "end-effectors" to perform the actual surgery, Kernstine explained.
"Some advantages of robotic surgery are precision, smaller incisions, less pain, and quicker healing times," Kernstine said in a statement. "The robots we use are not intended to act independently from human surgeons or to replace them. These machines merely act as extensions guided by the movements or inputs of the surgeon."
Medical machines have been widely used in cardiothoracic cases, in neurosurgery, bariatric, and for prostate and other cancers.