South Korea's Ministry of Food and Drugs Safety (MFDS) has approved the Revo-i, the first locally-designed surgical robot system. Revo-i is a machine that assists surgeons in performing general endoscopic surgery, a procedure that uses cameras or sensors to diagnose or treat conditions through small incisions or natural body openings. The system has four robotic arms that are controlled by the physician and an imaging system that provides three-dimensional images. At least one of the robotic arms is inserted into the body through a small incision and the surgeon uses the system to find the body part that will be treated. The arms are also used to cut specific body tissues and seal the incisions made after the procedure. Some of the body parts that the Revo-i can treat or remove include the gall bladder and the prostate gland.
Robots have been used in surgical procedures for many years now. Some of the existing surgical robots have limited roles like guiding physicians to surgical sites and cutting bones for knee and hip replacement procedures. On the other hand, two machines have been certified by the MFDS for more complicated procedures like general endoscopic surgery. Despite the limited use, patients still benefit from surgical robots as these machines make minimally invasive surgery a reality. This results in shorter operative time, minimal blood loss, and reduced hospitalization time, all of which lead to cheaper hospital bills. The fact that Revo-i is produced locally in South Korea also reduces the financial burden that both the patients and hospitals incur due to what the MFDS calls as the "import substitution effect". The import substitution refers to the policy of replacing foreign imports with often times much cheaper yet comparable local products. Before Revo-i was certified, the only surgical system approved by the regulator for general endoscopic surgery is the Da Vinci surgical system, which is developed by a US-based firm.
Aside from reducing the costs of surgeries in its home country, Revo-i allows South Korea to compete in the growing market of surgical robots. This year, the medical robot market is worth $5.2 billion and this figure is expected to grow to $8.86 billion within the next five years.