Our Stories

The Future of Medicine: Bionic Limbs and Robotic Surgery

When Dr. Hugh Herr  lost his lower legs from frostbite on Mt. Everest at the age of 17, he wasn’t satisfied with the prosthetics he was fitted with. So, he decided to invent something better.  He committed his career to advancing technology and improving prosthetic capabilities with robotics and bionics.

The bionic legs Dr. Herr created, and is now fitted with, are so life-like that if no one can see them then it’s impossible to tell they’re prosthetics. “Each limb is controlled by very small computers, micro-processors, and about twelve sensors,” he says. “The computers are controlling a muscle-tendon like motor system that powers my movements.” The technology makes movement look and feel more natural.

Since the creation of these bionic legs, 1,700 people have been fitted with them – most of them veterans wounded overseas. He’s also working with MIT to develop other innovative prosthetics for different parts of the body. Dr. Herr spoke at a recent event for physicians who are advancing patient care through technology, like robotic-assisted surgery.

Robotic-assisted surgery is an innovative way to perform minimally invasive surgery. With the help of the daVinci Surgical System, TriHealth surgeons can perform complex surgeries with much more finesse. There are less potential complications, and the recovery time is a lot quicker.

“It basically is allowing us to shrink down the size of our hands,” says Erik Dunki-Jacobs, MD, a surgeon at the TriHealth Robotic Center of Excellence. He uses robotic surgery to remove tumors from parts of the body that typically would have been hard to reach, requiring large incisions. The surgical system takes the natural tremor out of the surgeon’s hands, and the 3D camera that is inserted along with the surgical instruments gives them 10x better vision.

Dr. Dunki-Jacobs, and other surgeons who are leading the way with robotic surgery, are inspired by inventors like Dr. Herr who are also changing the future of medicine.  “To think about the stuff that they’re doing right now in labs that someday will be mainstream is really exciting,” he says.  “It’s an exciting time to be a part of medicine, using technology to help people.”

Tags Innovation and Research , Our Stories , Robotics