US researchers say a robot has successfully performed keyhole surgery on four pigs, all on its own, and they say the robot produced “significantly better” results than humans. The Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR) carried out laparoscopic surgery to connect two ends of an intestine in the pigs.
According to a paper published in Science Robotics, the robot excelled at the procedure, which requires a high level of precision and repetitive movements. Connecting two ends of an intestine is a challenging procedure in gastrointestinal surgery, requiring a surgeon to apply stitches – or sutures – with high accuracy and consistency. Even a slight hand tremor or misplaced stitch can result in a leak that could result in a patient suffering fatal complications.
It marked the first time a robot had performed laparoscopic surgery without human help according to John Hopkins University. It is normally hard for robots to perform soft-tissue surgery because of how unpredictable it can be, forcing them to be able to adapt quickly to handle unexpected obstacles. The paper set out a novel control system in the STAR that can adjust the surgical plan in real time, just as a human surgeon would.