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 M*A*S*H-style mobile army hospitals could be run entirely by robots

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Blue Belt
Blue Belt

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Registration date : 2009-01-03

PostSubject: M*A*S*H-style mobile army hospitals could be run entirely by robots   Thu Mar 05, 2009 2:34 pm

M*A*S*H-style mobile army hospitals could be run entirely by robots

Last updated at 1:54 AM on 05th March 2009

'Hot Lips' Houlihan from M*A*S*H would no doubt have something to say.

Army chiefs are planning to use robots to treat wounded soldiers on the battlefield.

The mechanical surgeons and nurses - controlled remotely by humans over a satellite link - would be able to administer anaesthetic and perform life-saving operations in a mobile 'Trauma Pod'.

The Pentagon is so confident in the project, it has invested ?8.5million in research.

Experience has shown that soldiers have a much higher chance of survival after an injury if they are treated within an hour.

However, in the theatre of war, field hospitals, like that depicted in the M*A*S*H TV series, set during the Korean War, can be many miles away.

The Trauma Pod, being developed by SRI International in California, could be driven to the front line on an armoured car.

The lead robot has three arms - one to hold an endoscope to let the human medic see inside the patient, and two to grip on to surgical tools, New Scientist magazine reports today. Other robots take the roles of nurses.

Pablo Garcia, of SRI International, said the robot surgeon would be able to carry out 'temporary fixes' to buy patients a few more hours until they reach a hospital.

Mobile hospitals like those portrayed in M*A*S*H could be replaced by the robot-staffed Trauma Pod

'The system will focus on damage control surgery, the minimum necessary to stabilise someone,' he said.

'It could provide airway control, relieve immediate life-threatening injuries such as a collapsed lung, or stop bleeding temporarily.'

The team believe the robot could also be programmed to carry out simple tasks independently, such as stitching wounds.

Other robots include a 'scrub nurse' - an arm that passes fresh tools to the lead robot. The operator can also talk to the patient, reassuring them and asking questions.

The pod prototype is the size of a small room. However, the researchers hope to shrink it to the size of a bunk bed.

As well as being used in battle, it could also help in the aftermath of earthquakes or natural disasters.

Although the finished pod is several years away, a prototype has been successfully tested.

In trials, the robot surgeons carried out an operation on a perforated bowel.

Robotic surgeons are already being used in hospitals.

One of the most popular is the da Vinci surgeon, which carries out keyhole procedures.

But it doesn't come cheap. The da Vinci robot costs around ?1million, plus ?100,000 a year in maintenance.

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