Surgical robotics: Reviewing the past, analysing the present, imagining the future
This paper presents an overview of the surgical robotics field, highlighting significant milestones and grouping the various propositions into cohorts. The review does not aim to be exhaustive but rather to highlight how surgical robotics is acting as an enabling technology for minimally invasive surgery. As such, there is a focus on robotic surgical solutions which are commercially available; research efforts which have not gained regulatory approval or entered clinical use are mostly omitted. The practice of robotic surgery is currently largely dominated by the da Vinci system of Intuitive Surgical (Sunnyvale, CA, USA) but other commercial players have now entered the market with surgical robotic products or are appearing in the horizon with medium and long term propositions. Surgical robotics is currently a vibrant research topic and new research directions may lead to the development of very different robotic surgical devices in the future-small, special purpose, lower cost, possibly disposable robots rather than the current large, versatile and capital expensive systems. As the trend towards minimally invasive surgery (MIS) increases, surgery becomes more technically demanding for surgeons and more challenging for medical device technologists and it is clear that surgical robotics has now an established foothold in medicine as an enabling technology of MIS.