The medical world is in a continuous state of change, and, as a discipline, surgery is no exception. Ensuring the safety of patients, and the efficiency of the hospital, are two factors that leading minds are continuously trying to bring into balance – and, as new technologies come to the fore, it is clear that the OR is preparing to enter into a new age marked by success.
Read more below.
Streamlining the OR
The OR has always represented a space wherein function takes total precedence over form. Everything has been consciously brought into the room, and remains there only so long as it is entirely necessary for the safety and efficacy of the procedures being carried out on any given day.
The same goes, of course, for OR personnel. Even prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, the fight to minimise the number of bodies without increasing the risk to the patient was one that was undertaken on a daily basis.
Still, that’s not to say that the OR has been honed to perfection. There is still a great deal of scope for minimising the amount of equipment, and the number of people, required within a single room, and much progress has been made in recent years. For instance, the new surgical retractor from June Medical has been designed in order to enable optimal control for surgeons (thus mitigating the need for additional personnel to aid with this aspect), and to minimise instrument clutter.
The design also enables a more economical approach by circumventing the demands (and costs) of sterilisation…
Deploying Automation and AI Widely
Introducing intelligent technology into the OR is an ongoing process. From automating the lights to ensure optimal positioning and brightness throughout every moment of the procedure, to granting robotic surgeons access to real, living patients, automating the OR is sure to be the work of decades.
Of course, the notion of robotic surgeons is not new, and our ability to utilise these futuristic devices in more surgeries than not remains something for the distant future. Still, its practical usage is growing more frequent, and is continually taking on greater potential within the OR – particularly as leading minds continue to develop new technologies that will no doubt come to support it.
For instance, researchers at the National University of Singapore are developing an artificial skin designed to enable robots to process sensory data, and learn to make decisions based on touch as well as visuals.
The process of completing a successful surgery is, of course, not one that begins in situ – it is one that begins long before the OR is even prepared for the patient’s arrival. Now, however, the process of planning for a surgery is being increasingly supported by the use of 3D printing. Specifically, surgeons are now able to print highly precise and unique 3D models of their patients’ organs, and undergo exploration and planning without the need for potentially invasive exploratory surgery.
In the post-Covid-19 age, this will prove doubly useful. Surgeons will be able to plan surgeries – even incredibly complex cases – and confer with others while maintaining a minimum of contact. Surgeons can reach out to specialists on the other side of the world – specialists who will be able to print their own model, and offer advice that is tailored to the specifics of the case.