OR of the Future - The Future of Medicine

The Operating Room of the Future-A Room with a New View

Use your imagination. It's the year 2020, and you need surgery; today is the day. You are the sole occupant in a large operating theater. Nurses and doctors are nowhere in sight. The only other humanlike form is that of a robot-faceless, polished, silent. The room itself is bright white, and gleaming steel arms extend over you. Strategically placed video cameras survey your physical being. Your body is prone and motionless; your mind is in a deep sleep as the action unfolds. A "smart" stretcher has been moving you gently along a conveyor-like belt from one predetermined station to another. As the special gurney supports your inert form, machines carefully monitor your vital signs and the deepest levels of biochemical change within your body.

First stop: a short semicircular tunnel. As you pass through it, invisible rays scan every part of your body. Next stop: the sterilization area, which ensures you won't have any chance of developing a postoperative infection. While you're in the sterilization area, a real-time picture of your inner anatomy and your total body molecular functioning is beamed to a control console just outside the operating room. There your surgeon is reviewing the surgery you're about to have, using a simulator and looking at a virtual you, designing the exact surgery that you need based on your internal anatomy and taking into consideration your cellular functioning.

OR of the Future

  • Fewer Procedures Will Need Operating Room

  • Fewer Procedures Will Need Surgery

  • Extended Functionality of the OR

  • Room with a New View

Your final stop is a docking station where a robot is poised to take its orders and make its first incision into your body. Your robotic surgery is about to begin. Of course, you are asleep so you haven't seen any of this. You are in the operating room of the future.

Although I've placed the time for this scenario in the year 2020, elements of it are actually here now and they're gaining in force every year. But before we jump so far ahead, it's important that we pause for a moment and consider surgery in an overall context.

It's fair to say that in the future, patients, surgeons, and the OR will be different. First, fewer surgical procedures overall will need to be done because of other advances in medicine that we've talked about elsewhere in this text. Not only will fewer procedures be performed, and fewer still be done in the operating room, but also the operating room itself will expand its functions. As our opening example suggests, the OR of the future depends upon technologies such as imaging, simulators, and robotic assistance to the surgeon-an OR that I am calling a room with a new view.




Last Modified: June 11, 2010

Copyright (c) Stephen C. Schimpff, MD