Surgical Robot 'Lends a Hand' to UMC Physicians in Laparoscopic Kidney Surgeries

<p>AESOP, a surgical robot being used by Sanjay Ramakumar, MD.</p>

Surgical Robot 'Lends a Hand' to UMC Physicians in Laparoscopic Kidney Surgeries

Nov. 27, 2001
From: Jo Marie Gellerman, (520) 626-7301
The new assistant in the operating room never eats, never sleeps and never went to medical school.
AESOP, a surgical robot being used by Sanjay Ramakumar, MD, assistant professor and director of minimally invasive urologic surgery, is "lending a hand" with laparoscopic kidney surgeries at University Medical Center.

Directing an operative camera inserted through a tiny incision in the patient's abdomen, AESOP helps Dr. Ramakumar perform a minimally invasive technique for kidney removal with far less pain, less recovery time and less scarring than traditional methods. "With a laparoscopic approach, and now with robotic assistance, we're able to remove a kidney, either because of disease or for transplant, through only a 2- or 3-inch incision," explains Dr. Ramakumar. The arm-shaped robot, which moves according to Dr. Ramakumar's voice commands, provides surgeons a clear and steady view of where they are working. In the past, a member of the operating team directed the camera, a tiring and expensive job.

When operating with AESOP, Dr. Ramakumar is outfitted with a microphone for communicating with the robot. The robot responds only to Dr. Ramakumar's voice and follows commands such as "move up," "move down," or "stop." The movements are smooth and typically more precise than a human's. Images are transmitted to a video monitor across the table from Dr. Ramakumar and are similar to those taken by conventional laparoscopic equipment. But because the camera is not hand-held, the images are exceptionally clear, not blurred or shaky. An increasing number medical centers around the country are using AESOP, which was the first robot approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for surgery. Dr. Ramakumar is one of the few surgeons in Tucson using robotics regularly in surgery and the only one in Arizona using AESOP for urologic surgeries. He believes robots will soon be common in operating rooms.

"This is only the first step in using robots designed to make surgery more efficient and precise," says Dr. Ramakumar. "The future holds promise for surgery performed completely robotically controlled by a surgeon nearby or from great distances."

(EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: B-roll of the robot being used in surgery is available, and patient interviews and a demonstration of the robot can be arranged by calling 626-7301.)