British scientists have developed a small surgical robot which they say could transform operating procedures for thousands of patients.
Cambridge Medical Robotics (CMR) has created Versius, a robotic arm that can mimic human movement in order to carry out a range or keyhole surgeries that could cut the need for open surgery on many patients.
The robot is controlled by a surgeon, who uses a 3D screen to help guide them.
The robot is also around a third of the size of existing bots used for procedures, CMR says. The company’s chief executive Martin Frost told The Observer that, although robots have already appeared in operating theatres, current costs have been a difficult hurdle to overcome.
“Having robots in the operating theatre is not a new idea,” he said. “The problem at the moment is that they are phenomenally expensive – not only do they cost £2 million each to buy but every procedure costs an extra £3,000 using the robot – and they are very large.
“Many hospitals have to use the operating theatre around the robot. Their size can also make them difficult for the surgical team to use.”
CMR says because the Versius is considerably smaller and has better dexterity, it represents a substantial upgrade on existing robots and offer better assistance to surgeons. The company said it will launch Versius in the spring, and once training of surgeons to work with it is complete, it could be part of procedures by the end of 2018.