Researchers Envision Computers, Robots At Surgeon's Table

"Computer-integrated surgical systems and technology will have the same effect on health care in the next 20 years that computer-integrated manufacturing had on industrial production over the past 20 years, and for many of the same reasons," predicts computer scientist Russell H. Taylor, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md. To help make that happen, Taylor will serve as director of the nation's first research center set up to create computer-linked surgical systems and medical robots. Support for the Engineering Research Center comes from a $12.9 million, five-year cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation. Also participating are the Hopkins' School of Medicine, its Applied Physics Laboratory, MIT, Brigham and Women's Hospital (Boston), Carnegie Mellon University, and Shadyside Hospital (Pittsburgh). Participating universities and hospitals will contribute $8.1 million with an additional $1.75 million coming from industry donors. Taylor says the "systems will let you do things you could never do any other way. Also they promote much greater consistency in surgical execution, fewer errors, and fewer complications. Finally, the systems potentially allow you to record more data about what you intend to do, and what you actually did in surgery, so that you can learn from your work and improve it."

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