Do Surgeons Lose Their Critical Sense of Touch Performing Surgery with Robots?

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Being able to project the sense of touch to a surgeon through the instruments, or to an operator through instruments is generally called haptics in robotics, and so people who refer to haptics doesn't have haptics. The da Vinci will let you know from feeling that you have in the controls, if there has been a big collision, if two instruments have collided or something can't move one way or another.

But it doesn't let you know if something is soft or something or something is firmer, being able to feel as you're moving across. Though what we have been seeing is that for the surgeries in which people really have been adopting it enthustiatically that sense of touch is so much less important than their vision.

When they can see it closely, and they're tagging on a little bit of tissue they can see that it branches every so slightly, they can see that it wrinkles a little bit, they can see how hard they're pulling on things, and a lot of surgeons who have been using it say that this superior vision that they have is well compensating for the sense of touch.

When I talked to surgeons, who say you absolutely need the sense of touch to be able to tell what's going on. I asked them, when they're training residents, can they tell if their resident if pulling too hard on something? And they said, well, of course I can. I said, but you're not touching that? They paused for a moment, and then they said, okay, I see what you're saying, that you really can see what's going on, and then that's a good substitution for a lot of the sense of touch that we talk about.