Robotic Camera Assistance: The Future of Laparoscopic and Thoracoscopic Surgery?

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Introduction. Minimally invasive techniques have become the standard for a variety of procedures across all surgical specialties. There has been a recent move to integrate robotic technology into standard laparoscopic and thoracoscopic surgery with the aim of improving stability of the visual field with the use of robotic camera assistance. The aim of this study was to report on and examine the use of a headset-controlled robotic camera holder, FreeHand. Methods. Between May 2013 and Dec 2016, 105 procedures were observed where the FreeHand robotic camera assistant was used. Observations were made of 43 consultant surgeons in 30 hospitals performing 21 different surgical procedures. During the surgery, the number of scope cleans and collisions were quantified, and surgeons were asked to score from 0 to 5 the setup, ergonomics, usability, and overall experience in a questionnaire. Results. Overall surgeon satisfaction was rated as “good” for setup (4.29), ergonomics of the system (4.12), usability (4.39), and overall experience of the system (4.34). In 8 operations (7.6%), there was a conversion from robotic camera assistant to manual assistant. There were no reported adverse events attributable to the use of the system. Conclusion. This study demonstrates the breadth of surgical procedures that can be performed with a robotic camera assistant. The robotic camera assistant was found to be safe and simple to use and was positively perceived on assessment in multiple procedures spanning several surgical specialties. This work suggests that robotic camera assistants may offer significant benefits to laparoscopic and thoracoscopic surgeons.

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