Vijay Singh, MD: The Future of Robotic Surgery


Vijay Singh, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Northwell Health, sat with MD Magazine to discuss the current state of robotics in health care, as well as what's missing, and what we could see in the next few years down the line as more companies and competing products emerge on the market.

Vijay Singh, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon at Northwell Health:

How robotics is shaping the future of surgery is in the application of it. It's an enabling technology that allows a surgeon to do what the Gold Standard open operation is, in a minimally invasive platform. We're able to do what used to take a big, morbid incision on a patient, and limit it to 1 or 2 or 3 small incisions, and still not compromise the operation. The most pressing elements in robotic surgery nowadays are actually limiting the number of incisions you're using. So, uniportal robotics—in the thoracic world—is on the horizon. Now that's taken a step further to now, instead of having 4 or 5 incisions, we're trying to do the whole operation with 1 incision, on a robotic platform. That's the next step that we see on the horizon.

Products that are upcoming are actually different companies making their own types of robots. Right now, there is really 1 main robotic company—on the horizon, Google and Ethicon are coming out with their own, Covidien is coming out with their own, so there will be competition. There are still developments in terms of what types of robots there are going to be. A lot of things are unknown—how they're going to incorporate CAT scans, virtual robotics, and so on and so forth. So there are a lot of upcoming things that we don't even know yet.

There is some thought of Abbie having a CAT scan that can emulate the actual patient so that some of the anatomical variations that you do see and you don't know about until you get in the operating room, you'll know about ahead of time. That's something that has been discussed, and how that is going to be implemented and if that can be implemented would be a game-changer in terms of anticipating any anatomical problems or abnormalities beforehand, instead of countering them during the operation.

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