Domo Arigato, Dr. Roboto

Specialists perform a groundbreaking procedure that combines robotic surgery and anesthesia -- and may turn out to be a game-changer.

Specialists at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) in Montreal, Canada, recently performed a groundbreaking robotic surgery and anesthesia that may transform the way procedures are done in the future.

The DaVinci surgical robot, which debuted this summer, and the anesthesia robot—nicknamed McSleepy—which has been in use since 2008, combined to perform the first all-robotic surgery on a prostatectomy patient at the Montreal General Hospital.

The collaboration “seemed an obvious fit,” said Thomas M. Hemmerling, MD, of McGill University and MUHC’s department of anesthesia, in a statement. “Robots in medicine can provide health care of higher safety and precision, thus ultimately improving outcomes.”

The DaVinci, added Armen Aprikian, MD, MUHC urologist in chief and director of the MUHC Cancer Care Mission, “allows us to work from a workstation operating surgical instruments with delicate movements of our fingers with a precision that cannot be provided by humans alone.” Aprikian and his team of surgeons operate the robotic arms from a dedicated workstation via video control with 3D HD image quality.

“Providing anesthesia for robotic prostatectomy can be challenging because of the specific patient positioning and the high degree of muscle relaxation necessary to maintain perfect conditions for the surgical team,” said Hemmerling. “Automated anesthesia delivery via McSleepy guarantees the same high quality of care every time it is used, independent from the subjective level of expertise. It can be configured exactly to the specific needs of different surgeries, such as robotic surgery.”

Although “there is still some work needed to perfect the all robotic approach—from technical aspects to space requirements for the robots,” he noted, “Whereas robots have been used in surgery for quite some time, anesthesia has finally caught up. Robots will not replace doctors but help them to perform to the highest standards.”

Combining both robots, the specialists at the MUHC can deliver “modern and accurate patient care.” The researchers will use the results of this project to test all robotic surgery and anesthesia in a larger scale of patients and various types of surgery. ”This should allow for faster, safer and more precise surgery for our patients” said Aprikian.

For more on this topic:

  • Robot-assisted Surgery Debuts at Pediatric Hospital
  • Video: Robot Doctor
  • An update on robotic thoracic surgery and anesthesia