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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: December 2009



The development of surgical robotics is a dynamic process, a constant interplay between clinical need and technologic capability. As both of these factors are constantly changing, it is unlikely that the form the surgical robot takes today will be the form it takes in 20 years. In many aspects, the technology has progressed beyond perceived clinical need. This has created a novel challenge for the surgeon — to determine whether a technologic innovation with apparent benefit has meaningful clinical application. This process has defined the in corporation of robotic technologies into many surgical disciplines, including gynecologic, cardiothoracic, urologic, abdominal, and pediatric surgeries. In whatever way this interplay of technology and clinical need progresses, surgeons are left with the task of guiding its impact on patient care.

The term robot is a misnomer when describing this surgical device. Derived from the Czech robota meaning “drudgery,” this term implies autonomous function, which most surgical robots do not have. Instead, they are better described as computerassisted telemanipulators, implying that they are subject to human control. The complexity of surgical procedures does not currently allow for devices that work entirely autonomously. Nevertheless, the term robot has added a flare of futurism to the endeavor and has been the one most commonly used in the literature.