And Now, Robodoc!

In a medical first, a robot in California performs invasive surgery

MEDICAL ROBOTS HAVE BEEN USED TO LOCATE hard-to-find tumors and guide a surgeon's scalpel but have never actually performed surgery on people -- at least not in the U.S. Now that line has been crossed. At Sacramento's Sutter General Hospital, a 90-kg (200 lbs.) machine called Robodoc has operated on its first human patient: a 64-year-old man with a bad hip.

The robot played a key role in a total-hip replacement, one of 500,000 such operations performed each year. The trick in these procedures is to cut a snug hole into which the artificial hip snaps. The standard method is to...

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