UK Scientists Develop the World’s Smallest Surgical Robot - Versius!

24 August 2017

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British scientists are set to start a healthcare revolution after developing what is considered to be the world’s smallest surgical robot, Versius.

It’s expected to make keyhole surgery quicker, improve recovery time and cut healthcare costs. The device should be ready to use on patients by the end of 2018 with makers Cambridge Medical Robotics already in talks with private care hospitals.

A team of 100 engineers and scientists developed Versius in the humble surroundings of a converted shed in Cambridgeshire using low-cost technology originally developed for the space and mobile technology industries industries, to create the world’s first robotic arm for keyhole surgery.

Keyhole surgery or minimally invasive surgery, is the surgical method of operating without having to make a large incision. It is referred to as thoracoscopic surgery when used on the chest area and laparoscopic surgery when covering the abdomen area.

The surgeries the Versius is expected to cover includes:
  • A wide range of laparoscopic procedures
  • Ear, nose and throat surgery
  • Hernia repairs
  • Prostate surgery
  • Colorectal operations

The robot, which will mimic a human arm, will be controlled by a surgeon at a console and guided by a 3D screen situated in the operating theatre.

The benefits of Versius
  • Versius is about 1/3 smaller than current technology and therefore easier to manage by theatre staff
  • It's the most ‘flexible’ robotic arm so far with more joints and freedom of movement than previous designs
  • It's design (pictured above) allows for multi-tasking
  • Most critically, it is no more expensive than non-robotic keyhole surgery

When speaking about Versius, the company’s chief executive Martin Frost said

“Having robots in the operating theatre is not a new idea…….The problem at the moment is that they are phenomenally expensive – not only do they cost £2m each to buy but every procedure costs an extra £3,000 using the robot – and they are very large. Many hospitals have to use the operating theatre around the robot. Their size can also make them difficult for the surgical team to use….They are also poorly utilised; they are only really used for pelvic surgery, and can’t be easily adapted to other types of surgery. In some hospitals they are only being used once every other day.”

The current global market worth for surgical robotics is around the $4bn a year mark but this is expected to grow to $20bn by 2024.

Nicola Lawler, Head of marketing at Projectus Consulting

Image Credit: Cambridge Medical Robotics