First Autonomous Robot to Operate on Soft Tissue Outdoes Human Surgeons

Step aside, Ben Carson. The once lauded ability to perform delicate operations with gifted hands may soon be replaced with the consistent precision of an autonomous robot. And—bonus—robots don’t get sleepy.

In a world’s first, researchers report using an autonomous robot to perform surgical operations on soft tissue and in living pigs, where the adroit droid stitched up broken bowels. The researchers published the robotic reveal in the journal Science Translational Medicine, and they noted the new machinery surpassed the consistency and precision of expert surgeons, laparoscopy, and robot-assisted (non-autonomous robotic) surgery.

Source: First autonomous robot to operate on soft tissue outdoes human surgeons

I for one welcome our suturing overlords…

The advancement in technology is impressive.  Roughly the last 100 years have seen incredible technology advancements, now we’re working on vehicles that self-drive (elec/alternative fuels have been done in the past).  It stands to reason that similar technology would help for something like surgery.

That said, the robot is performing the surgery.  That does not include diagnosis.

Butt Procedures, Male Breast Reduction Growing Slices of Plastic Surgery

For doctors specializing in the nipping and tucking of faces, the latest stats on plastic surgery might be a bit of a bummer.

Source: Butt procedures, male breast reduction growing slices of plastic surgery

The puns just keep coming… 😉

The article doesn’t discriminate about what percentage of the surgeries were reconstructive.  Gynecomastia isn’t the same as straight up vanity.

Should Doctors Be Allowed to Listen to Music During Surgery?

If you’ve had surgery under anesthesia in the last couple of decades, your doctor was probably listening to her favorite music while operating. There’s growing debate in the medical field about whether music in the operating room really helps surgeons focus or creates a potentially dangerous distraction.

Source: Should Doctors Be Allowed to Listen to Music During Surgery?

Understandably, the music won’t necessarily be liked/preferred by all:

Personally, if I’m having surgery – I don’t care what music my surgeon listens to, if at all, if its going to help them do the best job they can.

How Brain Tumours Adapt Through Complex Ecosystems

Despite advances in medical technology and a constantly evolving understanding of the mechanisms of cancer progression, researchers and clinicians are faced with a litany of challenges along the road to finding a cure for the most aggressive forms of cancer. This is particularly true of glioblastoma multiforme, the most common and most aggressive form of human brain cancer.

Source: Survival of the fittest: how brain tumours adapt through complex ecosystems

The Man Who Cut Out His Own Appendix

During an expedition to the Antarctic, Russian surgeon Leonid Rogozov became seriously ill. He needed an operation – and as the only doctor on the team, he realised he would have to do it himself.

Source: The man who cut out his own appendix

It’s an impressive story – what choice did he have?

Towards the end of high school, there a number of my friends had their appendix taken out.  The first, they didn’t know the signs and thought it was just a bad cold/flu.  It ruptured as he got up to get the phone, and recounted days in hospital on heavy pain medication.

As They Lay Dying: Terminally Ill and Organ Donation

…W.B.’s life was turned upside down by the diagnosis. But once the initial shock passed, he began researching his condition intensively. He learned that he was unlikely to survive five years, and that in the meantime his quality of life would diminish dramatically. With limited options, many patients retreat. But, quite bravely, W.B. had other ideas. After much consideration, he decided that if he was going to die, he would like to try to save another person’s life in the process, even if that person was a stranger. And so last May he approached the University of Wisconsin’s transplant program, where we are surgeons, as a prospective organ donor.

…From the earliest days of transplantation, surgeons subscribed to an informal ethical norm known as the “dead-donor rule,” holding that organ procurement should not cause a donor’s death. In practice, this meant waiting until patients were by all measures completely dead—no heartbeat, no blood pressure, no respiration—to remove any vital organs. Unfortunately, few organs were still transplantable by this point, and those that were transplanted tended to have poor outcomes by today’s standards.

Source: As They Lay Dying

The medicine, the US in this article particularly, operates in a strange paradox – we uphold the right to patient autonomy in nearly every situation… Except when an otherwise (legally) competent individual chooses a care option that involves the outcome of death/disability by intervention. Physician-aid-in-dying and this particular case are examples of decisions made by terminally-ill people where we interfere with their right to self-determination.

I don’t stand on a political soapbox – everyone gets an opinion and a vote – but rather an ethical one.

If we can not cure, what are the boundaries of what we do to palliate? What if we are able to simultaneously palliate (psychologically or physically) one patient, while providing an invaluable service to another? Is it truly against the spirit of the Hippocratic oath to provide psychologically and spiritually meaningful interventions at the expense of the physical body?

I personally am of the mind that if the patient and physician enter into a trusting and respectful relationship, that these questions can only be answered/defined within the context of that particular relationship.

Why Are You Nearsighted? Here’s An Explanation You May Not Have Heard.

The southern city of Guangzhou has long held the largest eye hospital in China. But about five years ago, it became clear that the Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center needed to expand.

More and more children were arriving with the blurry distance vision caused by myopia, and with so many needing eye tests and glasses, the hospital was bursting at the seams. So the centre began adding new testing rooms — and to make space, it relocated some of its doctors and researchers to a local shopping mall. Now during the summer and winter school holidays, when most diagnoses are made, “thousands and thousands of children” pour in every day, says ophthalmologist Nathan Congdon, who was one of those uprooted. “You literally can’t walk through the halls because of all the children.”

East Asia has been gripped by an unprecedented rise in myopia, also known as short-sightedness. Sixty years ago, 10–20% of the Chinese population was short-sighted. Today, up to 90% of teenagers and young adults are. In Seoul, a whopping 96.5% of 19-year-old men are short-sighted.

Source: The myopia boom

This isn’t the first I’d heard about the hypothesis – the first time indicated that being outdoors was a preventative measure.  But only if the horizon was a significant distance away and could be seen; according to them, it was all about spending time focusing on objects a great distance away as well as closer objects. IE: being outdoors in a dense urban environment where you were closely surrounded by buildings that blocked far distance views didn’t help.  To put it another way, how many farmers do you know who are near-sighted?

The article/hypothesis picks on books, but tablets/etc are no better.  Maybe my folks were right about sitting too close to the TV?  Nah… 😛

The Legend Of The Surgery With The 300% Mortality Rate

Robert Liston was a competent surgeon who contributed significantly to medicine as a science. Then he had the misfortune to have one seriously bad day, and became a legend in the medical community.

Source: The Legend Of The Surgery With The 300% Mortality Rate

Every couple of weeks, this comes up on Reddit…

Clinical Trials: Should Sponsorship gets You a Spot in Them?

For drug developers, there’s not much interest in rare cancers; for scientists, after the initial lab excitement of discovery has worn off, there’s little opportunity for glory left. Pushing new ideas into clinical testing is tedious, exhausting and takes time away from making other discoveries. Promising work that offers alternatives to the savage old therapies for such diseases is therefore difficult to fund and quickly forgotten. There were no suitable EU grants for the Uppsala work; Swedish cancer charities have shallow pockets, and the Swedish government refuses to support clinical trials as a matter of policy. Even if a private company could be involved, the patent situation was muddy, the target population small and the commercial risks unusually high.

It was then that I had my unexpected funding idea. As far as I knew, no one had ever tried it before. I flew to Uppsala to meet the lead researcher, Professor Magnus Essand, and asked him, if I could raise the cash he needed, whether he would restart work on his unpronounceable bug.

Source: Should the Rich Be Able to Buy Places on Clinical Trials?

It’s long, and covers iterations to address various issues.  I don’t know that I’d have a problem if the person paying had a chance of getting the placebo.  But trying an experimental drug won’t always be a cure either.