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Robodoc steps into the OT

A four-armed robot is on a mission to save lives in Calcutta, lending the cutting edge to complicated surgeries where the surgeon’s hand sometimes cannot match the precision of his brain.

Robot-assisted surgeries are being conducted frequently at Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals on the Bypass after a successful first attempt a few months ago.

Doctors say the Rs 15-crore robot is a reassuring presence in the operating theatre, enabling them to attempt procedures that would have otherwise been risky.

One of Robodoc’s hands wields a camera that sends high-definition 3D images to a monitor where they are magnified 15 times.

“The image of a blood vessel, magnified 15 times, gives me a view that a camera for standard laparoscopic procedures cannot offer. I can see clearly if a vessel is bleeding,” said consultant urologist Vinay Mahendra, who has used the robot in several complex surgeries.

Cameras used in standard laparoscopic surgery can provide 2D images that are magnified four times.

“With precision comes enhanced safety,” said Mahendra, part of a team of surgeons who went through three weeks of training on robotic surgery in the US.

Three of the robot arms hold scalpels and scissors. The wrists can turn 360 degrees, giving it the unique advantage of reaching otherwise inaccessible parts of the body.

“Other surgical instruments can be turned only by seven degrees,” said Shailesh Puntambekar, a Pune-based surgical oncologist.

Puntambekar was in the city recently to conduct a robot-assisted cancer surgery at Apollo Gleneagles. “In robotic surgery, the chances of human error and accident are minimal in comparison to other methods,” he said.

The prostate is one organ that is manually hard to access but the manoeuvrability of robot arms make it an easy task, Puntambekar said.

As of now, robotic surgery is mostly used for procedures in the abdominal region. “In head and neck cases and surgeries where access is superficial, robots are not widely used because of high costs,” said surgical oncologist Gautam Mukhopadhyay.

At Apollo Gleneagles, the cost of a robotic surgery ranges between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 3.5 lakh. “We will soon use the robot for complex neurosurgeries, where precision is the key,” said Rupali Basu, CEO of the hospital.