"The future of surgery is not about blood and guts; the future of surgery is about bits and bytes.”
/Dr. Richard Satava/

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


It is time to offer a bouquet of interesting professional programs again, as many deadlines are approaching.
You have missed the opportunity to publish something at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA 2009), but professional attendants are still welcome to join the conference in May at the convention center of Kobe, Japan. There is not much time left to submit something to the biggest triannual World Congress on Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, held in Munch 7-12. September. Actually, it's the aggregation of 5 different BME conferences. Next is the International Conference on Medical Information Systems Engineering (ICMISE 2009) in Tokyo, Japan. Papers for this year's IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent RObots and Systems (IROS) are due on 1st March, just as the applications for the exceptional summer workshop on Neuromorphic Cognition Engineering in Telluride, CO, organized by Dr. Etienne-Cummings from JHU. Quickly approaching the deadline for the September London MICCAI (International Conference on Medical Image Computing and Computer Assisted Intervention), and you still have some time to consider the annual EMBC (31st Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society), held in Minneapolis early September. If you are more surgery oriented, consired the First International Conference on Recent Advances in Surgery (ICOS-2009) that will be held in Kottayam, India , 4-6 September. Finally, do not forget about the SMIT2009 (20th International Conference of Society for Medical Innovation and Technology) either, that is only due to early June, and will be held in Romania. See you all there!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Da Vinci S robot II.

The initial success and increasing sales of the da Vinci system gave an opportunity to Intuitive Surgical Inc. to move on with the development of the next generation of the robot. They began the work already in 1999, and finally the da Vinci S replaced the older version three years ago. (Although some claim the “S” stands for streamline, no one ever confirmed that at Intuitive.) The da Vinci S looks similar for the first sight, but it contains major upgrades. First and foremost, high resolution (true HD) cameras and visual system has been integrated that provides a significant difference for the human feedback. (Check out some surgery videos here.) Basically the entire interior controller has been redesigned and upgraded, and now the 25,000 USD low level controller boards provide the computational capacity of 7 decent laptops. A robot consists of 10,000 individual parts, and the operating code streches beyond 1.4M lines.
The patient side manipulators have been re-designed to improve the workspace of the robot and to avoid collision. Certain practical features have been added, such as the information LEDs on the manipulators, and the mechanism that makes tool exchange easier and faster. The patient cart is capable of motorized docking now that shortens the setup time. Dr. Domenico Savatta summarizes the differences in his blog:
“The main differences for the nursing team are as follows:
1) Much faster setup times with 3 wires instead of 7 to plug into the console.
2) The sterile adaptors are fitted into the drapes, so they are much easier to load.
3) The robot has a battery power source which means my nurses wont have to push it anymore.

The main differences for the surgeon:
1) The robot is much easier to dock since the arms move much more freely.
2) the 4th arm is much more versatile since it can be brought higher up.
3) The arms dock very easily with new adaptors.
4) The most useful feature- The arms are more slender and the ports telescope, making collisions MUCH less frequent. Also the range of motion is much larger.
5) The console is enhanced with streaming images. They had it set up with a cardiac echo, but I was thinking of real time ultrasound for visualizing renal tumors in partial nephrectomies.
You can also get a live feed from a camera in the room to see what your assistant is up to.
6) The console has a TV screen for the assistant.”

Though the service of the older generation is continued, as of today, there are more S robots out in the word. In recent years, Intuitive was focusing on the tool inventory for the robot, developing useful and specific tools for procedures (e.g. US probe). Also, they put an effort to provide a generic research interface to help institutes developing compatible tools and techniques. In a joint venture with the CISST ERC the are about to release the SAW architecture (Surgical Assistant Workstation) that would further integrate the robot into any surgical information system. Naturally, they do not talk much about their research on further major impact surgical devices. They see the da Vinci S as a good platform, and want to fully exploit its R&D and financial possibilities.

Photos: Intuitive Surgical Inc.