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Robots in the operating room

Hospitals in Chandigarh are seeing a steady rise in the use of robotic assistance in the operating room. Could robots be the future of surgery in India?

robot Copyright: ppbig / 123RF Stock Photo
Could robotics be the future of healthcare?

Robot-assisted surgeries have been taking place at the Postgraduate Institute (PGI) in Chandigarh since 2014. However, 2019 is likely to see more of these surgeries taking place than ever before, with figures already reaching the numbers for previous years with a month still to go. 

The reason for the considerable increase in usage of the robotic technique is that, previously, the robotic machine — known as Da Vinci — was used mainly in urological conditions like prostate, kidney cancer and other minimally invasive surgeries (small incisions). Now it is also being used by the PGI’S gynaecology, paediatrics and ENT departments.

Aside from the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) in Delhi, the PGI is India’s only government-run health institution in India that uses Da Vinci as a medical assistance tool. The surgeries using the robot in PGI cost between Rs 30,000 and Rs 60,000, while the same can cost around three times more in private hospitals.

The concept of the robotic assistance is to improve the accuracy of surgery. Due to the high accuracy and steadiness of the robotic surgical device, surgeries can be performed via keyhole incisions. Doctors have noted that as expertise with the robot-assisted procedures has improved, surgery times have also shortened, freeing up the tool for other departments and allowing more surgeries to take place.

The application of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare is becoming a major market in its own right both in India and across the globe. New projections suggest the sector can expect significant growth in the next few years. By 2026, forecasters have said AI-based healthcare will be worth US$8 billion – a growth of 49.7 percent from 2019. The Asia Pacific region is expected to drive this growth.

AI covers both physical robotic tools, as well as a myriad of diagnostic software and analysis tools. Health Issues India has previously noted numerous cases of AI-powered innovations originating from Indian startups, ranging from a wearable glove with the ability to detect seizures in those with epilepsy to therapeutic devices to help manage diabetes.

Further innovation in the healthcare sector could see the market continue to surge. As big data and technology improve, these tools may become commonly accepted tools in managing and treating a host of conditions and in medical applications such as surgery.

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