Award for robotic surgery research


An Imperial researcher has received the prestigious Athanasiou Award at the 50th meeting of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES2018) in Atlanta, USA. Dr Harsimrat Singh, a research associate in the NIHR Imperial BRC Surgery & Technology Theme, was invited to give a talk on his recent publication in the Annals of Biomedical Engineering (ABME) on robotic surgery, which was recognised as one of six outstanding publications in AMBE in the past year by the editorial board.

The study was the first to demonstrate benefits of robotic surgery over laparoscopy- a type of minimally-invasive surgery- in the context of surgeons’ technical performance during episodes of high mental workload, such as urgent suturing of a bleeding vessel.

Eight surgeons were asked to perform a delicate surgical task using the conventional laparoscopic approach and via robotically-assisted technique using da Vinci® Si system; with and without time pressure. Optical brain imaging, heart rate and technical measures of performance were monitored to objectively assess surgeons’ attention and concentration during each task. Results of this study demonstrated that when under pressure, using a robotic platform improved surgeon’s accuracy, reduced technical errors and accelerated task progression. Importantly, this work showed for the first time that in addition to improved technical performance, robot-assisted surgery reduced surgeon’s mental demands, which translated into more focused attention and greater task engagement than when using a conventional procedure. Ultimately, robotic surgery could prove a safer and more efficient approach for patients’ treatment.

This work is part of the NIHR Imperial BRC Surgery and Surgical Technology Theme, aiming to reduce trauma and improve patient treatment and safety through co-operatively-controlled specialised instrumentation, with improved visualisation, accuracy and ergonomics.