The chronicle of surgical robots is short but remarkable. Within 20 years since the regulatory approval of the first surgical robot, more than 3,000 units were installed worldwide, and more than half a million robotic surgical procedures were carried out in the past year alone. The exceptionally high speeds of market penetration and expansion to new surgical areas had raised technical, clinical, and ethical concerns. However, from a technological perspective, surgical robots today are far from perfect, with a list of improvements expected for the next-generation systems. On the other hand, robotic technologies are flourishing at ever-faster paces. Without the inherent conservation and safety requirements in medicine, general robotic research could be substantially more agile and explorative. As a result, various technical innovations in robotics developed in recent years could potentially be grafted into surgical applications and ignite the next major advancement in robotic surgery. In this article, the current generation of surgical robots is reviewed from a technological point of view, including three of possibly the most debated technical topics in surgical robotics: vision, haptics, and accessibility. Further to that, several emerging robotic technologies are highlighted for their potential applications in next-generation robotic surgery.
Part of the book: Surgical Robotics