Future of surgery; rapid robotic technology development still requires doctors expertise
Robots are nothing new in surgery rooms here in Korea. Many already have state-of-the-art high tech systems in place... advanced enough to draw the attention of medical epxperts from other countries.
In growing numbers, they are visiting Korean operation rooms to observe and learn the groundbreaking field of robot-assisted surgeries.
But, to what extent are these machines capable of doing? What about the role of human doctors?
The fourth installment of our medical feature series - our news feature tonight with Lee Unshin.
At this hospital in southern Seoul, a patient is undergoing a prostatectomy using a robotic interface.
But unlike a conventional laparoscopic procedure, the surgeon sits down, at a control panel, away from the patient.
And observing from a distance is a medical practitioner from Kazakhstan.
"I'm an assistant professor in urology from Kazakhstan. I came to Korea through a government-funded program to learn skills for machine assisted surgery from Korean doctors because they are said to be excellent in the field."
Korea is a nation with advanced surgical skills that not only welcomes but also fosters robotic innovation on the operating table.
And with a number of reputable doctors paving the way in the field,...surgeons from abroad are often seen in the operating room, watching and learning. "One of the latest robot-assisted surgery technologies that Korean doctors are utilizing nowadays is this cutting-edge machine. The Da Vinci surgical system. This allows surgeons to perform complex procedures with a minimal invasion"
Originally produced back in 1999 in the United States,...Korea started using the system in 2005, and now, more than 35 Da Vincis are operating in hospitals across the nation.... including the latest version known as the 'Xi', which provides improved vision and lighter, extended robotic arms.
Though Korea wasn't an early adapter, as of 2016,...it has developed more diverse surgical applications of the Da Vinci system than any other country,.... with the most widely used application being procedures to treat prostate cancer at 30-percent, followed by treatments for thyroid cancer and colorectal cancer.
Robot assisted operations using devices such as the Da Vinci are increasingly in demand, as the surgeon is provided with a 3D image of the patient's inner surgical field, allowing for a comfortable and more accurate maneuvering of the robotic arms.
As a result, surgical errors are minimized, while recovery time for patients is enhanced greatly.
One of the proven advantages of robot assisted operations has been shown in treating prostate cancer. Unlike a laparoscopic operation, utilizing the robotic system significantly increased the rate of patients recovering from bladder control loss, one of the main aftermaths of a prostatectomy. "If a prostatectomy were to be performed without robotic assistance, the patient could have a 20 centimeter long scar on his lower abdomen because the organ is located deep inside the body. The same goes for surgeries that involve the uterus."
But having a robot perform a surgery doesn't diminish the role of the surgeon.
In fact, the responsibility of the physician only becomes greater. "When people hear the term 'robotic surgery', they normally think of a machine doing all the work, but as you saw, it's still me, the doctor, who controls everything from beginning to end. So the final results are only determined by the doctor's actual skills and experience."
In other words, developments in the robotic field assist surgeons to underscore their skills and expertise, creating the perfect collaboration between "smart" machines and irreplaceable human intuition.