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The pitfalls of laparoscopic surgery: challenges for robotics and telerobotic surgery.

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Department of Surgery, Hackensack University Medical Center, New Jersey 07601, USA.


After its debut in 1988, laparoscopic cholecystectomy rapidly became the standard of care for cholelithiasis, yet very few surgeons use minimally invasive techniques for other abdominal operations. Why do most surgeons continue to perform traditional open gastrointestinal operations? We believe that the answer to this question lies in the fact that advanced laparoscopic operations are difficult to learn, perform, and master. A number of inherent pitfalls of laparoscopy hinder the performance of these operations even after the surgeon has accumulated years of experience. These pitfalls include an unstable video camera platform, limited motion (degrees of freedom) of straight laparoscopic instruments, two-dimensional imaging, and poor ergonomics for the surgeon. Inexperienced or bored laparoscopic camera-holders move the camera frequently and rotate it away from the horizon. The long, straight laparoscopic instruments are limited in their motion by the fixation enforced by the abdominal wall trocars. Similarly, the standard two-dimensional video imaging used in most laparoscopic operations impedes the surgeon's depth perception, compounding the limitations of laparoscopic instruments. In addition, surgeons are forced to assume ergonomically awkward stances in performing many laparoscopic operations. These four factors hinder a surgeon's efforts to learn and to perform advanced laparoscopic operations, significantly lengthening the learning curve. The articles presented in this issue suggest that robotics and telerobotics offer solutions to these nagging pitfalls of laparoscopic surgery.

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