Surgical Robots Archives--World's First Surgical Robot

Following a series of successful articles about the early days of surgical robotics (Vol.1, Vol.2, Vol.3, Vol.4), here is a post about the Beginning.

All the fame and all the glory goes to the "world's first". In medical/surgical robotics, it is typically hard to determine what was first. Different systems have been used for different purposes. There are many reports from assistive manipulator prototypes from the 1970s [Article], and we know the proposed surgical telemanipulator concept from Alexander et al from NASA, the early 1970s.  

Probably, the first robot used to assist with patients is the Arthrobot from 1983 (also called Heartthrob), and the scrub nurse robot used with it. It was developed by  Dr. James McEwen, Geof Auchinleck and Dr. Brian Day at University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC). The very first surgical procedure with robot assistance happened March 12, 1984 at the UBC Hospital, and within a year, over 60 arthroscopic procedures were performed. [Reported in a Medical Post article from 1985]. Based on the patent submitted [Powered surgical retractor  US 5271384], this was an active supporting device, not treating the patient. Interestingly, the UBC group submitted another patent on their robot in 1985 [Advanced medical robot EP 0201883 A3], but it was withdrawn in 1991. Later, they developed the arm-holder version of the robot as well [Useful in surgery US 4807618].
Next stage was the much more documented neurosurgical trial in 1985 by Kwoh et al, when image guidance was first used in the OR. Yet, the PUMA robot was only used as a stereotactic targeting device. Parallel, in Japan percutaneous nephrostomy robot was developed, but no data is available on any clinical application.
The first robotic device to remove human tissue was the Probot, developed at Imperial College: Prof. Davies used the robot to remove a prostate in April 1991.
Next stage was ROBODOC, the first robot that actually treated a human patient in an autonomous (image-guided) manner Nov. 7, 1992, at Sutter General Hospital in Sacramento. Parallel with that came the Green Telepresence System and all the others...

Read more in our IEEE SACI paper.
Thanks to R.J. Webster III for the support!


It's amazing to see how far technology has gone through the years. From the first surgical robot to the MAKO robotics we have today, technology advances the medical field. In Webster, Texas, our hospital uses MAKOplasty which is a form of robotic-assisted surgery. With robotic assistance, our doctors perform procedures with more accuracy and our patients are recovering faster.

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