Creating a roadmap for more automated surgery

Colin Dobbyne, operating theatre control system designer, examines the IoT technology that could modernise operating theatres to become ‘part of an active collaborative support system’.

Colin Dobbyne CEng, MIET, operating theatre control system designer, examines the IoT (Internet of Things) technology that he says could modernise operating theatres, transforming them ‘from isolated workspaces to being part of an active collaborative support system’, harnessing Surgery 4.0, and, in the process, ‘radically changing the way surgery is performed’. He explains the technology needed, the potential benefits, and how to remove current barriers.

I will begin this article by looking at where are now in terms of the prevalent operating theatre technology – and in the main we are locked in Surgery 3.0, which is where we have been for almost 60 years. Surgery started thousands of years ago as a manual intervention, performed in the best light that you could find – Surgery 1.0. This carried on right up until the late 19th century, and the advent of electricity, and the light bulb in particular, transforming surgery, and giving rise to the birth of effective endoscopy – Surgery 2.0. The next evolution – Surgery 3.0 – came with the invention of the silicon chip in 1961; electronics rapidly brought amazing advances, with sophisticated systems such as anaesthetic machines, electro-surgical units, programmable logic controllers, computing, sensors, endoscopic cameras, lasers, and so on. 

A ‘typical’ theatre environment

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