Currently, during a laparoscopic or robot-assisted surgical procedure, several units of medical personnel are requested in the operating room: the main surgeon who tele-operates the surgical robot, the assistant surgeon who supports the main surgeon, and nursing staff.
Under this paradigm, SARAS (Smart Autonomous Robot Assistant Surgeons) has been developed, a project in which the Robotics and Vision group of the Research Centre for Biomedical Engineering (CREB) of the UPC has participated.
As part of SARAS, next-generation surgical robotic systems have been created so that a single surgeon can execute robotic minimally invasive surgery (R-MIS) without the need of an expert assistant surgeon. This increases the efficiency of the social and economic resources of a hospital and guarantees the same safety level for patients.
The concept of robot that has been worked on consists of an integral solo-surgery system, through the integration of two additional assistive robotic arms (which assume the tasks of assistant surgeon) that are autonomous, and a cognitive and cooperative artificial intelligence core with a surgical robotic system. To achieve this, the auxiliary robots have to learn the basic surgical procedure. They must be able to determine which phase of the process is being carried out, so that they can decide which assistance action must be undertaken once the action of the main surgeon has been completed. This assistance could consist in moving an organ or holding a suture needle.
The concept required the development of specific technologies for its implementation:
The CREB of the UPC has contributed to the development of the assistive robot control system to assist the surgeon in robotic tele-operation surgery. This system replaces the auxiliary tasks that are usually carried out by the assistant surgeon.
The task that CREB has carried out in the four years of the project has focused on verifying the effectiveness achieved in the synthetic surgical field, like a radical prostatectomy. The work carried out involved modelling the procedure, establishing the rules of action and integrating it into the ‘DaVinci Research Kit’, a tele-operation platform that is focused on research into assistive robotics techniques in surgery.
SARAS has been developed by a consortium comprised of the University of Verona, the University of Modena, the University of Ferrara, San Raffaele Hospital of Milan, the University of Dundee, Brookes University, Medineering Surgical Robotics and ACMIT Austrian Center, and the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), through the Robotics and Vision group of CREB. SARAS has been funded by the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme with a total amount of €4,225,000, of which €410,000 have funded the task of CREB.
Further information is available on the project’s official website.