Written by Dao Le
Technology has infiltrated nearly every aspect of American society, and the military is no exception. When one thinks of innovative technology usage in a military setting, army tanks, aircrafts, and precise weapons typically come to mind. In recent years, however, more research and funding have been geared towards the development of technology that can possibly improve military medicine. One such innovation is the employment of robotic surgery in the field. To understand the implications of robotic surgery in military medicine, it is important to first comprehend the basics of robotic surgery.
Robotic surgery usually refers to minimally invasive procedures that are controlled by a surgeon, aided by a magnifying camera, and executed by small robotic devices . Studies have shown that patients who undergo robotic surgery report spending less time recovering away from work and experiencing less pain . Overall, robotic surgery also decreases the chance of human error by generating more precise movements than human hands possibly can, with improved hand-eye coordination and magnification . Even with all these advantages, one must understand that many previously established surgical procedures would have to be remodeled to accommodate the use of robotic instruments, which is an extremely expensive feat . With enough funding and scientific ambition, however, it is certainly possible to develop more robotic procedures and instruments.
There is currently much public interest in utilizing robotic surgery in military medicine, specifically on the battlefield. Approximately 86% of battlefield deaths happen within the first 30 minutes of sustaining trauma . Yet, wounded soldiers are left alone in hostile environments for up to 72 hours at a time, increasing the chance of mortality . Soldiers require immediate medical attention after a fatal injury, but first responders are not always present or even capable of providing this attention in a battlefield scenario. That is why many military physicians believe that robots, controlled by specially trained surgeons via satellite, can address this problem. Though robots are not completely indestructible in the face of gunfire, they can withstand much more than the average human body can . The durability of robots on the battlefield increases the chances for wounded soldiers to receive immediate medical care and decreases the need for first responders and surgeons on the front lines . More intelligent, pre-programmed robots may also be necessary due to the severe military physician shortage the United States is currently experiencing . These types of robots, however, are more controversial and expensive; after all, they have to be individually programmed to perform different procedures in the field without the guidance of a physician . A surgical procedure performed purely by a robot with barely any human influence is certainly unnerving. Regardless, it is something the Department of Defense may be interested in pursuing in the future .
In an era in which much defense spending is aimed towards producing killing machines, it is comforting to know that the military is still investing in life-saving procedures. Robotic surgery holds much promise for our men and women in uniform. For all their service and sacrifices, they, at minimum, deserve optimum care in the field.
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