Robots could soon be used to carry out C-sections and slice off skin cancers, experts say.
And robots are expected to become so sophisticated surgeons can take a backseat and even healthcare assistants will be able use them.
The use of robotics and recording people’s DNA will bring a ‘watershed moment’ for medicine in the next 20 years as they make surgery safer.
Doctors will also be able to diagnose illnesses like cancer before they destroy organs and, as a result, operations will be smaller scale and less traumatic, an independent commission has predicted.
A report published today said medicine is ‘on the cusp’ of a digital breakthrough and new machines could be in NHS hospitals as soon as next year.
But medics must proceed with caution after a landmark inquest this year revealed a 69-year-old man died when a robot was used to carry out his heart surgery in 2015.
Robots are helping to revolutionise surgery and will one day become so sophisticated they won’t need surgeons to operate them, an independent commission has said
The Commission on the Future of Surgery, set up by the Royal College of Surgeons in 2017, has predicted how it sees operations changing in the future.
Robots are soon expected to be used more in vaginal surgeries and operations on the bowel, heart and lungs.
And using advanced robots controlled by technicians and surgeons will mean operations will be faster, less invasive and easier to recover from.
Even healthcare assistants – who do not need any formal qualifications to get a job – could one day be trained to perform c-sections with the robots, The Telegraph reported.
Specialists and surgeons will remain in charge of operations but may not always need to be in the room.
‘This is always going to be under the watchful eye and careful supervision of a surgeon,’ said Richard Kerr, neurosurgeon at Oxford University and chair of the commission.
‘These are highly qualified healthcare professionals and they will be trained in a specific aspect of that procedure.
‘The changes are expected to affect every type of operation – this will be a watershed moment in surgery.
MAN DIED BECAUSE ROBOT WAS USED FOR ROUTINE HEART OP
Stephen Pettitt, 69, died in 2015 after he had an operation to repair a valve in his heart.
A robot made by the firm Da Vinci was used in the surgery but the surgeon performing the procedure – Sukumaran Nair – had turned down the offer of training on the machine before he used it, an inquest heard.
Part of Mr Pettitt’s heart was damaged during the operation, in which the people supervising the machine left the room.
Experts later predicted Mr Pettitt would have almost definitely survived the operation if it had been performed by human hand.
Surgeons in the theatre had struggled to communicate during the operation because the machine was so loud, it was revealed.
Some applications of robots and DNA-based medicine are expected to happen sooner than others, with healthcare assistant-led C-sections possible within five years.
But the use of robots in surgery could be controversial after a man who died in a robotic operation in 2015 would have survived if a human had done the surgery.
The doctor using the robot in the procedure which ended in the death of Stephen Pettitt in Newcastle reportedly turned down being trained to use the machine.
And the people supervising him left halfway through the operation, during which Mr Pettitt’s heart was damaged leading to his death just days later.
Today’s report claims major cancer operations could become a thing of the past because screening DNA will pick up diseases earlier, before they ravage the body.
And similarly, people with severe forms of arthritis could be identified early on and faster treatment might reduce the need for major hip and knee replacement ops.
‘These big, set-piece operations will become less common as we are able to intervene earlier and use more moderate interventions,’ added commission member Professor Dion Morton.
The commission said these developments will one day impact on every kind of surgery.
And some simpler procedures – or routine parts of bigger operations – could even be carried out by highly qualified and trained technicians under the supervision of a surgeon.
This would free up surgeons for more complex, demanding parts of surgery, the experts claim.
Elderly people might be able to have more surgery, too, because the procedures won’t be as damaging for the body, reducing the risk of complications or infection.