Twenty-first century surgery using twenty-first century technology: Surgical robotics

Michael R. Marohn, Eric J. Hanly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Introduction: The "Nintendo" surgery revolution, which began in 1987, has impacted every surgical specialty. However, our operating rooms remain isolated worlds where surgeons use awkward, primitive, rigid instruments with suboptimal visualization. We need "smart instruments," "smart technology," and "smart imaging." Is surgical robotics the answer? Methods: We provide an analysis of current surgical technology and skills, propose criteria for what the next generation of surgical instruments and technology should achieve, and then examine the evolution and current state of surgical robotic solutions, assessing how they answer future surgical needs. Finally we report on the U.S. Military's early experience with surgical robotics and the lessons learned therein. Results: Current surgical robotic technology has made remarkable progress with miniaturization, articulating hand-imitating instruments, precision, scaling, and three-dimensional vision. The specialty-specific early clinical applications reviewed are promising, but they do have limitations. Surgical robotics offers enormous military application potential. Needed future refinements are identified, including haptics, communications, infrastructure, and information integration. Conclusions: Laparoscopic surgery is a transition technology, constrained by instrument, equipment, and skill limitations. Surgical robotics or, more properly, computer-assisted surgery may be the key to the future. The operating room of the future will be an integrated environment with global reach. Surgeons will operate with three-dimensional vision, use real-time three-dimensional reconstructions of patient anatomy, use miniaturized minimally invasive robotic technology, and be able to telementor, teleconsult, and even telemanipulate at a distance, thus offering enhanced patient care and safety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)466-473
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2004


  • Computer-assisted surgery
  • Minimally invasive surgery
  • Surgery
  • Surgical robotics
  • Telemedicine
  • Telesurgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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