5 Advancing Surgical Technologies Shaping The Future of Healthcare

The future of surgery is interspersed with technological advances. With technology moving at an unprecedented rate, the applications of surgery technology are constantly growing.

Here are the top surgical technology innovations to watch out for in the future!

1. AI powered surgical robots

Robotic surgery has been around for two decades now. The da vinci surgical robotic system got it FDA approval in 2000 and the world is witnessing advances in console operated, minimally invasive surgeries ever since.

We are constantly witnessing a year-on-year rise in demand for robotic surgery over years. This demand is fueled by the fact that both patients and physicians are strongly in favor of robotic surgery.

Surgical robots optimize the anatomical access for minimally-invasive procedures, allowing the surgeon to perform the surgery through a small access point. Smaller incisions result in lesser bleeding at the surgical site and enhance its visualization for the surgeon. For the patients, robotic surgery is less painful, has faster healing and less scarring, leading to better recovery rates.

While robotic surgery has already become a norm, it is highly reliant on the surgeon who controls the robotic arms. With continued rise in AI capabilities in the field of healthcare, we are all set to see a second wave of robotic surgery, spearheaded by intelligent robotic systems.

The surgical robots will also have data collection and analysis capabilities, removing the inherent limitations of human driven robotic arms. While the surgeon will continue to remain at the forefront of decision making, the data collection and analysis capabilities of the AI system will aid in data driven decision making during surgical procedures.

“Robotics and AI are removing the human constraints and physical limitations on surgery and placement of innovative medicines,” says Ajan Reginald, CEO of Celixir. “With ultra-high resolution robotic assistance, we can now consider the optimal site to place stem cells in the eye, brain, heart to drive regeneration or where to place cellular anti-cancer therapies to kill cancers.”

The confluence of Artificial Intelligence and Surgical robots is definitely steering both the patients and well as the surgeons towards improved surgical outcomes.

2. Smart surgical glasses

Smart surgical glasses made their debut in 2012 but they are constantly getting refined in their application in the operation theatre. While the earliest version of these smart devices were primarily used for recording video, relaying it for remote observation or transmitting images on them, the new wave of innovation in surgical glasses offers promising benefits.

A Taiwan based biotechnology company has developed smart surgical glasses called Caduceus in late 2019. They combine mixed reality technology (augmented and virtual reality) with surgical navigation.

The surgeons are able to visualize a 3D model of the patient’s anatomy including the vascular and the nervous systems which is of critical importance during orthopaedic and neuro surgeries. It can aid in spinal navigation, for positioning of surgical entry points, and in determining the angles for the screws to be fixed during spinal surgery.

Rather than juggling between looking at the patient or the monitor during procedures like fluoroscopy, the surgeons can perform their actions without having the need to look away from the patient. The smart surgical glasses improve the surgeon’s efficiency, reduce the surgery time and improve the accuracy at the same time.

3. AR/VR for surgical training

Technology has proven to be an effective teaching tool and its importance in the field of surgery cannot be undermined. Augmented reality and Virtual reality technologies are finding widespread application in medical learning and training.

In 2016, a cancer surgeon at the Royal London Hospital was the first surgeon in history to use 360 degree Virtual Reality cameras during bowel surgery. The students could observe the surgery through the VR in OR app without crowding the operation theaters.

Having the options to learn remotely and observe surgeries in real time using VR goggles have opened up new horizons in the field of medical learning. Learning through VR/AR simulations adds significant value to the traditional medical education and allows learning to take place at scale without the restriction of geographical boundaries.

Another breakthrough in medical learning are virtual dissection tables. Medical institutions no longer have to rely on the availability of human cadavers for teaching anatomy to the medical students. 3D models prepared through processing of CT scans and MRIs are also proving to be an important teaching tool for future medical professionals. 3D modeling is definitely turning out to be a vital operative pre-planning tool.

4. Remote surgery

Telemedicine and remote patient monitoring are already becoming the new normal in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The future would likely see advances in the field of remote surgery as well. Telemedicine and cloud computing in healthcare is already bridging the gap in access to specialist care by making remote consultations possible.

Robotic surgery conventionally requires the surgeon to be in the physical vicinity of the patient and control the robotic arm while performing surgical procedures. The ability to perform surgeries remotely could potentially transform all that. Remote surgery is a form of telepresence where the surgeon does not need to be in the same physical location as the patient to conduct the surgery.

This technology would help overcome the shortage of surgeons while managing the geographical limitations and challenges associated with patients living in remote areas. The surgeons control the robotic arms through a master controller or a console. The user receives a sensory feedback to help navigate through the surgery. Researchers are actively working on electrical stimulation to give robot assisted remote surgeries a perception of touch to improve surgical outcomes.

Remote surgery also requires cutting edge networking technology to overcome any lag in transmission. With advances such as 5G technology reducing the time lag and making real time transmission of video and audio faster, China is already making headway into the field of remote surgery. The rest of the world is all set to follow suit soon.

5. Streamlined diagnostics

Diagnostic imaging and surgical visualization go hand in hand with the actual surgical procedures. While O-arm and C-arms are already being put to use in the OT, novel surgical imaging and diagnostic systems are increasingly finding their adoption in the operating rooms.

Devices are being developed to offer intraoperative and real-time imaging in the operating rooms. NuVasive’s Pulse OR platform offers a combination of surgical planning, neuromonitoring, radiation reduction, rod bending, and imaging and navigation functions to enhance operational workflow, lessen variability, and raise surgical reproducibility. The independent access enables image viewing from various technologies and provides insights in real time.

Pocket ultrasound scanners and handheld machines that are compatible with smartphones apps are not only a great addition to the remote clinics, but they also come handy for real time imaging in the operating rooms.

Put advanced data processing algorithms through big data analytics, AI/ML capabilities in the mix and the day is not far when surgical data would lay the foundation for decision making in the operation theater.

Technology has the power to boost the efficiency in the field of surgery, right from surgical pre-planning and surgical workflow management to performing actual surgeries and managing post operative care. ORLink, the surgical workflow management platform Arkenea worked on developing went on to raise $1 million in venture funding upon its launch.

Planning to get into the cutting edge field of healthcare technology? Experts are just a click away!

Vinati Kamani
 

Dr Vinati Kamani writes about emerging technology and its application across industries for Arkenea. She is an avid reader and self proclaimed bibliophile. When Vinati is not at her desk penning down articles or reading up on the recent trends, she can be found travelling to remote places and soaking up different cultural experiences.