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Research Aimed at Developing Master Robotic Surgeons

Madison, Wisconsin - A new robot in a surgical research laboratory at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics will help document the precise skills that separate a master surgeon from a robot rookie.


Carla PughWhile it is known that the more experienced the surgeon, the better the outcome rates of robotic surgery, a new UW study will document precisely what those skills are and how they can better be taught.


“We know that master surgeons are able to make decisions quickly and more efficiently during surgery, but we don’t know how they make the decisions,” says Dr. Carla Pugh, associate professor of surgery and vice chair for surgical research at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.


Armed with sensing technology and information recorded by the robot itself, Pugh will detail the motions and hands-on decision-making of surgeons who will range in skill and ability from medical students to 10-year master surgeons.


“Our goal is to create a learning system so we can more quickly teach surgeons to master the skills,” she says. “For example, can we teach the skills of 10 years of experience in just two years?’’


The da Vinci robot is increasingly common in U.S. operating rooms. Surgeons at UW Hospital and Clinics have been using the da Vinci surgical robot since 2006 for a wide variety of appropriate procedures, including complex heart surgeries, radical prostatectomies, hysterectomies and gland-removal procedures.  Intuitive Surgical, the company that makes the da Vinci Robot, was interested in Pugh’s research and donated the $1.5 million robot after hearing her make a presentation.


Pugh, clinical director of the UW Health Clinical Simulation Program, says that surgeons from the disciplines of urology, gynecology, thoracic and general surgery are participating in the research, as well as residents and medical students. In addition, the study will look at operating room nurses and circulators, to study the ways that operating room teamwork creates the best outcomes.


Pugh holds a “method patent” on the use of sensor and data-acquisition technology to measure and characterize the sense of touch. Currently, more than 100 medical and nursing schools are using one of her sensor-enabled training tools for their students and trainees. She received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers at the White House in 2011 and recently received a $2 million grant from the U.S. Army to create a system to assess the clinical skills of medical personnel called up for service. 

Date Published: 09/24/2013

News tag(s):  researchsurgerysimulation

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Research Aimed at Developing Master Robotic Surgeons

Last updated: 03/18/2014
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