A surgeon peers into a high-definition monitor, studies the ragged edge of a heart valve, and twiddles her fingers in a gizmo-laden glove. Meanwhile, miles away, a robot that looks like a cross between a loom and a torture device reproduces her every delicate move with a pair of tiny pincers, suturing up the damaged heart.
This isn’t reality. This is last week’s episode of NBC’s “Heartbeat” medical drama, featuring a version of the University of Washington’s Raven robo-surgeon that’s been souped up just for show.
The real-life world of robot-assisted surgery may not be as edgy as Hollywood makes it out to be. But it’s here, it’s profitable, and it could soon get a lot edgier.
The market leader is Intuitive Surgical, the maker of da Vinci Surgical Systems. Last week, the Silicon Valley company reported a nearly 17 percent rise in da Vinci procedures worldwide over the past year, and a 41 percent rise in quarterly profit. That boom came even though a single robot costs $2 million – a price tag that’s generated controversy in the health-care community.