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  • Writer's pictureXavier Ranz

The first laparoscopic surgery performed by a robot


In January 2022, the first surgery performed by an autonomous robot took place, the STAR robot developed by John Hopkins University performed an anastomosis on porcine models completely autonomously. Unlike telesurgical "robots" of the daVinci type, which are mechatronic systems controlled by a remote operator, the anastomosis was performed without the intervention of the surgeon. This was made possible thanks to plenoptic three-dimensional and near-infrared fluorescent (NIRF) imaging system associated with an intelligent autonomous suturing algorithm, but over all this is the result of several years of research at the universities of Maryland. As usual when a technological first concerns "robotic intelligence", criticisms, omens and concerns were expressed testifying to our ambiguous relationship with intelligent machines, essentially Western behavior when we know the human / robot relationship in Japan.

25 years ago, on May 11, 1997, a computer developed by IBM, the Deep Blue, beat the ogre of Baku, Garry Kasparov, chess world champion. This event was commented on as the victory of the machine over man. The funny thing about this story is that it was a computer malfunction that turned the game upside down. Unable to choose between several moves, the machine would have played randomly during a game, destabilizing Kasparov for the rest of the chess confrontation.

Two messages to take away:

1. Do never prejudge the superiority of the machine over the man

2. As Chung-Jen Tan, Project Manager at IBM, said after the chess game: "This has nothing to do with a fight of man against machine but with how we humans can use technology to solve complex problems"

The technological feat achieved by the STAR robot opens up immense prospects and in a few years we will see such functionalities integrated into intelligent surgical robots without questioning the value and deep expertise of surgeons.


H. Saeidi, J. D. Opfermann, M. Kam, S. Wei, S. Leonard, A. Kim, M. H. Hsieh, J. U. Kang, and A. Krieger "Autonomous Robotic Laparoscopic Surgery for Intestinal Anastomosis" Science Robotic. 26 Jan 2022 Vol 7, Issue 62

H. Saeidi, H. N. D. Le, J. D. Opfermann, S. Leonard, A. Kim, M. H. Hsieh, J. U. Kang, and A. Krieger "Autonomous Laparoscopic Robotic Suturing with a Novel Actuated Suturing Tool and 3D Endoscope" IEEE Int Conf Robot Autom. 2019 May; 2019: 1541–1547

A. Shademan, R. S. Decker, J. D. Opfermann, S. Leonard, A. Krieger, P. C. W. Kim "Supervised Autonomous Robotic Soft Tissue Surgery" Sci Transl Med 2016 May 4;8(337).

Article published in hub.jhu

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