Surgical robots are becoming a popular commodity in the healthcare industry, however, the high costs and lack of training facilities are limiting the number of robots on the hospital floors. At the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M), they have created a trainer surgical robot that could help address this problem.

Researchers at IIT-M have developed a surgical robot designed solely for training purposes. To develop the prototype, the team worked with urologists from PSG Medical College, Coimbatore as well as an industrial partner. Here’s how it works: The surgeon controls the master robot and monitors the surgery through a vision system, while a slave robot is holding a surgical tool performing and repeating the surgeon’s actions. The master and slave arms have seven degrees of freedom meaning there is seven different ways in which they can act. After showing the prototype to several robotic surgeons, the researchers at IIT-M have been receiving positive feedback.

The use of robots offers more precision and will help to minimize blood loss due to restricting incisions to smaller areas. The use of robots also reduces the chances of complications and allows for a faster recovery. Although robotic surgery has its benefits, most hospitals cannot afford these robots nor are they familiar with the technology.

The trainer robot is estimated to cost around Rs 60-70 lakh. Professor Asokan from the Department of Engineering Design said, “The cost of a commercial robot is around RS 12 crore. To get such a costly robot for training purposes would be impossible for medical colleges. An affordable trainer robot will help students to get trained on this futuristic technology.”

The current robot design is meant to be used for abdominal surgeries, but in the future developers hope to expand its use to other procedures. Robotic surgeons still feel that there is more work to be done for the robots to become usable on a large scale. Surgical simulation will only continue to become a critical component for the surgeons of the future.