Imagine tiny robots swimming through your body to perform complex surgeries. You can stop imagining now, since these robots are quickly becoming a reality.
Scientists and doctors are using miniaturized snake robots, or “snakebots” injected into bodies to help them perform surgery on hearts, prostrates and other organs. They carry tiny cameras, scissors and forceps and are currently tethered, but may soon roam bodies on their own.
“It won’t be very long before we have robots that are nanobots, meaning they will actually be inside the body without tethers,” says Dr. Michael Argenziano, the chief of adult cardiac surgery at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center, in the Associated Press. “It’s like the ability to have little hands inside the patients, as if the surgeon had been shrunken, and was working on the heart valve.”
Snake robots and others like it help reduce medical costs by making complex surgeries faster and easier. Plus, they allow surgeons to operate with far less damage to the body, which helps the patient heal faster. Instead of opening up the entire chest during heart surgery, a small incision can be made for the robot to crawl into.
Dr. Ashutosh Tewari of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York has used robotic tools for thousands of prostate operations. The robotic tools help to cut out cancerous tumors and seeing exactly what nerves to leave intact. Tewari said these robots may one day test chemicals or blood in the body, or even the electrical connections in nerves.