Robotic arms to perform heart surgery
British doctors have pioneered surgery with a robotic arm to treat patients with atrial fibrillation - abnormal and irregular heartbeat.
Atrial fibrillation affects about three people in every 100 and is a major cause of strokes and heart failure. It's slightly more common in men than women and is more likely to develop in old age.
There are only four robotic arms in use in the world. British surgeons have already used robotic arms in the operation of more than 20 patients. The operations were highly successful and allowed people to lead normal lives, reported online edition of BBC News.
The robotic arm that performs the surgery is controlled from a computer console. Surgeons use a joystick on a computer console to more accurately position and control the wires, which often need to be placed in locations that are difficult to reach.
During the procedure, known as catheter ablation, several thin wires and tubes are inserted through a vein in the groin and guided into the heart where they deliver an electric current to specific areas of heart muscle.
The electric current destroys tiny portions of heart tissue, which cause the abnormal heartbeat.
"The robot allows accuracy and control of catheter movement which cannot currently be achieved without a skill level that usually takes considerable time to acquire," said Wyn Davies, a cardiologist at the St Mary's Hospital in London.
"The attraction is the potential for automation - we can get details about the patient's heart anatomy from CT (computerised tomography) scans, then on the computer draw where you want the ablation delivered and hit return," he said.
Davies added that full automation was a few years away but he could envisage a scenario where a skilled operator could oversee multiple operations happening at once.