commands Constantine Frantzides, eyes fixed on the liver gingerly
clenched between his forceps. His assistant, Hermesa state-of-the-art
surgical computer trained to follow a repertoire of voice commandschirps
in compliance and inflates the patients body cavity with carbon
dioxide, allowing Frantzides to repair the hiatal hernia causing
the patients heartburn.
surgeons today, Frantzides, professor of surgery at the U of C and
chair of the division of surgery at its Louis A. Weiss Memorial
Hospital, relies on minimally invasive, or laparoscopic, surgical
techniques to reduce the pain, risks, and extended hospital stays
of conventional surgery. But his integration of technology like
Hermes takes the advantages of laparoscopic surgery a step further.
career on laparoscopic techniqueseight of which he pioneeredFrantzides
can perform procedures that previously required incisions of up
to 12 inches through just a few quarter-inch slits in a patients
abdomen. A camera inserted through one slit allows Frantzides to
watch on a monitor above the patient as he uses special tools inserted
through the others to cut, cauterize, suction, and suture.
of Frantzides futuristic operating room is Hermes. The device
was named for the Greek gods messenger by its developer, Computer
Motion, for its role in carrying out a surgeons instructions
and alerting staff to the status of the operation.
operation, Frantzides inserts a computer record of his voice patterns
into Hermes, which descends from the ceiling on its own power-assisted
boom. Other instruments and monitors in the room, dubbed an endosuite,
can also be pulled down from the ceiling for use or left retracted
Able to decipher Frantzides mild Greek accent, Hermes allows
him to more seamlessly direct surgical procedures, providing audio
feedback when it completes a task. Hermes can perform a number of
actions that would otherwise require the surgeon to turn away from
or lean across the patient to adjust controls manually.
a headset, Frantzides can ask Hermes to inflate the body cavity,
increase or decrease the intensity of light illuminating the cavity,
or take a snapshot of the area under investigation, all while his
eyes are fixed on the monitor above.
plans one day to use a slim-profile monitor mounted on his office
wall to coach a surgeon across the country through an operation.
He also envisions an operating room where the surgeon uses motion-
and pressure-sensitive gloves to manipulate sterile robotic extensions
that perform surgical procedures on the patient. Though a strong
advocate of advanced technology in the operating room, Frantzides
still believes that technology will never render the surgeon obsolete.
Theres always a boundary, he says. The surgeon
will always control the operation.M.D.B.