Robots Are As Good As Humans At Surgery

Would you be operated on by a robot?

Robots are as proficient as their human counterparts at performing surgery, a new study has revealed.

The trial found that prostate cancer patients whose glands were removed by robots controlled by humans reported the same quality of life twelve weeks later as those who had undergone traditional surgery.

In the first randomised trial of its kind, patients who had received robot-assisted surgery said they experienced less pain doing everyday activities a week later.

They also enjoyed a better overall physical quality of life at six weeks.

However, researchers were particularly interested in how the two patient groups recovered over time and found that differences levelled out by 12 weeks.

The study revealed no differences in urinary and sexual functions at 12 weeks, nor in the number of post-operative complications between the two groups.

Patients of open surgery spent longer in hospital afterwards, but on average both groups spent the number of days away from work.

The authors of the study, which was published in the Lancet, said that urinary and sexual function can continue to improve for up to three years after surgery.

They will continue to assess patient recovery, including cancer survival rates, until the conclusion of the two year trial.

Oliver Burston via Getty Images

Lead author, Professor Robert “Frank” Gardiner of the University of Queensland, said: “Surgery has long been the dominant approach for the treatment of localised prostate cancer, with many clinicians now recommending the robotic method to patients.

“Many clinicians claim the benefits of robotic technology lead to improved quality of life and oncological outcomes.

“Our randomised trial, the first of its kind, found no statistical difference in quality of life outcomes between the two groups at 12 weeks follow-up.”

The 308 men with prostate cancer who were included in the study were randomly assigned to either receive robot-assisted surgery or open surgery.

Robot-assisted laparoscopic prostatectomy (RALP) was first reported in 2000. A 3D camera enables surgeons to see inside a patients’ abdomen through a keyhole incision, while they direct its surgical instrument from within the operating room.

With the robots costing approximately £1.5m each, it is more expensive than open surgery. But it’s becoming increasingly popular in fields including urology, gynaecology, head and neck and general surgery.

The robots and drones of the future

Robots that can deliver other robots:
Amazon Prime Air is a drone delivery service which the company is currently testing. The company aims to deliver products within just 30 minutes of the customer pressing the 'order' button. (AP Photo/Amazon)
Robots that could soon be saving lives:
MARK RALSTON via Getty Images
The robot 'CHIMP' developed by Team Tartan Rescue from the US prepares to complete a task during the finals of the DARPA Robotics Challenge. It is hoped that these robots will eventually replace emergency services workers during events like the Fukushima nuclear disaster. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Robots that can carry your stuff:
MARK RALSTON via Getty Images
A robotic cheetah runs during a demonstration at the finals of the DARPA Robotics Challenge. DARPA's four-legged robots have been designed to carry supplies and ammunition for the US Army. Capable of travelling over tough terrain the hope is that these will eventually replace the need for trucks or small vehicles. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Robots that can kill:
AFP via Getty Images
A sentry robot freezes a hypothetical intruder by pointing its machine gun during its test in Cheonan. South Korea unveiled a high-tech, machine gun-toting sentry robot that could support its troops in detecting and killing intruders along the heavily fortified border with North Korea. The weapons-grade robot can detect, raise the alarm and provide suppressive fire. (KIM DONG-JOO/AFP/Getty Images)
Robots that can race each other:
YOSHIKAZU TSUNO via Getty Images
Japan's motorcycle maker Yamaha Motor introduces the prototype model of a motorcycle riding robot 'Motobot' during a press preview at the Tokyo Motor Show in Tokyo on 28, 2015. (YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)
Robots that are toys:
The Sphero BB-8 remote controlled droid is on display at CES Unveiled, a media preview event for CES International, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Las Vegas. The robot is controlled by an app for a mobile device. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Robots that will do your weekly shop:
A new delivery drone company plans to revolutionise the way we do our shopping by replacing your weekly trip to Sainsbury's with a tiny delivery robot which will bring your fruit and veg straight to your door. (Starship Technologies)

Before You Go