Robotics at cutting edge of surgery

Surgical robotics specialist Dr Catherine Mohr speaks in Dunedin yesterday. Photo: Gregor...
Surgical robotics specialist Dr Catherine Mohr speaks in Dunedin yesterday. Photo: Gregor Richardson.
Robotic surgical tools are cutting costs and improving patient outcomes, but robots will not be carrying out operations without guidance from human surgeons anytime soon.

That was the message yesterday from Dr Catherine Mohr, a Dunedin-born, United States-raised surgical robotics specialist from Silicon Valley, near San Francisco, who gave the 2017 Pickering Lecture to more than 90 people at the Glenroy Auditorium, Dunedin.

Her talk focused on surgical robotics and "writing the script for the next revolution in surgery".

Although Dr Mohr  left Dunedin at the age of  2, she returns  to Otago annually, staying at a crib  near Glenorchy.

The annual Pickering lecture is organised by the Institution of Professional Engineers of New Zealand. Dr Mohr is a self-confessed geek, as well as  surgeon, inventor, mechanical engineer, and medical technology pioneer.

She has played a key role in US firm Intuitive Surgical’s development of the da Vinci Surgical System, a robotic system that helps  with minimally invasive surgery.

Keyhole surgery can now be done by  surgeons  controlling sophisticated robotic tools which have greatly extended the range of operations that can be undertaken without "opening the patient up" as required in traditional surgery.

Keyhole surgery greatly reduced  complications and recovery time, she said.

Robotic tools would remain firmly under human control, but exciting benefits could be gained from blending human skills and robotic abilities.

New ways to train human surgeons were emerging, and better imaging systems enabled at-risk tissue to be more precisely identified in cancer surgery.

In order to improve patient outcomes, "we need to think about doing it a different way", she said.


The human surgeons are skilled precision specialists, the group to whom we are grateful for not participating in the cannabis altered state craze now sweeping the country.