For the First Time, Newly Developed Robot Assists Doctors and Nurses in Operating Room

Robotic History Made in Operating Room of NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Pavilion

Jun 16, 2005


In a successful procedure today at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/The Allen Pavilion, a robot for the first time functioned as an independent assistant to the surgical team by handing and retrieving surgical instruments. The robot performed all of its assigned functions properly, a key validation of this important new technology and a dramatic demonstration of the potential for automation in the operating room.

The robot, known as the Penelope™ Surgical Instrument Server (SIS), uses innovative technology to identify surgical instruments, hand them to the surgeon, retrieve them and put them back in place. This new robot was designed and developed by Robotic Surgical Tech, Inc. (RST) of New York. The procedure performed was the removal of a benign tumor on the forearm.

Robots have been used in the operating room as tools for the surgeon to improve capability and accuracy. This is the first time a robot has functioned as an independent assistant, taking commands and performing actions independently based on the surgeon's instruction.

"We are really excited about this new technology. We believe that this robot is a powerful ally for operating room staffs, helping them to do their jobs more productively and making these jobs more fulfilling," said Dr. Michael R. Treat, founder of RST and an attending surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/The Allen Pavilion and associate professor of clinical surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. "Robotics will help save time and increase efficiency in the operating room."

"Penelope worked smoothly and efficiently to provide the correct instruments for the procedure as I asked for them," said Dr. Spencer E. Amory, director of surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/The Allen Pavilion and clinical professor of surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. "Although the procedure was relatively simple, I believe this marks a big step in the advancement of robotics and the introduction of advanced technology to the operating room."

The robot, funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), is designed to be a safe, efficient, and cost effective addition to an operating room. Penelope is easy to use, allowing surgeons and nurses to interact with her as if they were interacting with a person. She will assist nurses and surgeons, but will have no direct patient contact.

Penelope SIS is equipped with voice recognition software, allowing the surgeon to ask for an instrument in a normal manner. A specially designed robotic gripper places the tool in the surgeon's hand. When the surgeon lays the instrument back down, the robot uses digital cameras and advanced image processing software to recognize it and return it to its proper position. Penelope SIS even includes software to predict what instrument the surgeon may need next and provide a detailed count of what instruments were used.

"As in other areas of health care, the surgical team has faced shortages of manpower that affect the scheduling and staffing of operations. The Penelope SIS has the potential to help extend the operating room staff, allowing more versatility in the scheduling of routine procedures and automation of instrument counts," said Ms. Willie Manzano, Chief Nursing Officer of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. "It can be an innovative tool in our work to improve the quality of patient care."

"Health care faces diverse issues of quality, access and cost, many of which can be addressed by appropriate application of technology," said Dr. Herbert Pardes, President and CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. "This project is part of our continued commitment to the advancement of medical technology for the better treatment of the patient and the greater efficiency of the hospital."

Penelope is self-contained on one mobile stand, which makes transferring her from one operating room to another simple. The robot also is designed so that as software advances occur, she can be easily updated.

Robotic Surgical Tech, Inc.

Robotic Surgical Tech, Inc. (RST) is a NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center spin-off company founded by Dr. Michael R. Treat in 2002. A longtime proponent of surgical technology, Dr. Treat established RST to advance the role of robotics in the operating room. Dr. Treat has built a strong team of talented, enthusiastic people, dedicated to this goal. RST is supported by NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, The Center for Advanced Information Management at Columbia University, New York State Office of Science, Technology & Academic Research, U.S. Army Medical Research & Material Command's Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and NSF Small Business Innovation Research Program.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/The Allen Pavilion

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/The Allen Pavilion is a 226-bed full-service community hospital serving upper Manhattan and the Bronx. It has 13,500 discharges and approximately 26,000 Emergency Department visits each year. All Allen Pavilion physicians are part of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and members of the faculty of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Among its specialties, The Allen Pavilion offers patients the most advanced research in geriatric medicine and heart failure; progressive educational programs in diabetes management; stress management; maternal and fetal health; and vascular surgery – all in a warm, family-friendly environment.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital – based in New York City – is the largest not-for-profit, non-sectarian hospital in the country, with 2,397 beds. It provides state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory, and preventive care in all areas of medicine at five major centers: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian, The Allen Pavilion, and The Westchester Division. One of the largest and most comprehensive health-care institutions in the world, the Hospital is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education, and community service. It consistently ranks as one of the top hospitals in the country in U.S.News & World Report's guide to "America's Best Hospitals," in New York magazine's "Best Doctors" issue, in Solucient's top 15 major teaching hospitals, and in many other leading surveys. The Hospital has academic affiliations with two of the country's leading medical colleges: Joan and Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University and Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons.

Columbia University Medical Center

Columbia University Medical Center is an international leader in basic, pre-clinical and clinical research, patient care, and medical education. The medical center trains future professionals in health care and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, nurses, dentists, and others at the College of Physicians & Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the School of Dental & Oral Surgery and the School of Nursing. With a long history of contributing to valuable discoveries and advances in science and medicine, its faculty are leaders in initiatives that address the most pressing health issues of the day.