The first historically documented application of a robotic manipulator in human medicine was the case of PUMA robot in 1985 during a brain surgery at the Long Beach Memorial Hospital (California). Soon it was followed by a prostate surgery carried out at the Imperial College in London in 1988. Later, other types of surgical procedures followed.
A new chapter in this area started with the arrival of da Vinci surgical robot at the dawn of new millennium, which spread rapidly even into smaller hospitals. These robots have been originally developed for the military in order to enable remote operations of wounded soldiers in field hospitals. Very soon, robotic surgery showed several advantages compared with standard treatments.
This spurred further development and today, surgeons operate in the same room with the patient. Benefits include a higher degree of sterility, shorter operating time as well as an overall lesser body damage, resulting in shortened recovery. What is more, certain procedures can be done in the field of microsurgery which could not be done manually.
Surgery is not an exclusive area when it comes to robotic application in healthcare. Another important areas are preparation, dispensing and packaging of drugs or handling of biological samples and other operations requiring accurate, fast and reliable work with tubes, dishes and various other instruments. The ability of a robot to work in infectious or otherwise hazardous environment which would otherwise require expensive measures to avoid contamination, is key. Robotic technologies are also used in construction of bionic limbs and exoskeletons that support body movement for handicapped people.
Last but not least, the application of autonomous mobile robots in hospitals for purposes of food, drugs, medical instruments and biological samples distribution should be mentioned. Robots allow faster and more efficient distribution of medical supplies in large hospital buildings. In return, they allow healthcare professionals to spend more time on personal interaction with their patients which is an area very likely to resists robotics for a long time.
Prof. Ing. Peter Hubinský, PhD.