BBC News tells us that a 72-year-old retired physicist went under heart bypass surgery -- performed on him by a robot.
The article adds that the British man left the hospital just four days after the operation.
This was made possible by a new procedure, called totally endoscopic robotic coronary artery bypass (TECAB).
Normally, a heart bypass requires surgeons to crack the rib cage open so they can gain access.
But in Mr Cast's case the only incisions needed were four holes the width of pencils.
The procedure is controlled by a surgeon, but instead of operating directly on the patient, he uses an instrument console several feet away.
This allows him to orchestrate the highly precise movements of a pair of robotic arms.
These arms are designed to mimic the dexterity of a surgeon's forearm and wrist -- but in fact they actually have a greater range of motion, and are less susceptible to tremours, allowing surgeons a finer degree of precision than ever before.
This technique can only be applied today to patients requiring a single vessel bypass, but further developments will permit to perform double and triple bypasses in the future.
In the mean time, this technique has only benefits, according to the surgeon who performed the operation, Roberto Casula.
"This provides a huge number of benefits for the patient including just a small amount of scarring, less pain (and use of pain killers), a reduced chance of post-operative infection and blood transfusion, and importantly, quicker mobilisation speeding along a good physical and emotional recovery," he said.
Source: BBC News, May 19, 2003
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