Ultrasound-guided robotic surgical procedures: a systematic review

Surg Endosc. 2024 May;38(5):2359-2370. doi: 10.1007/s00464-024-10772-4. Epub 2024 Mar 21.


Introduction: Ultrasound has been nicknamed "the surgeon's stethoscope". The advantages of laparoscopic ultrasound beyond a substitute for the sense of touch are considerable, especially for robotic surgery. Being able to see through parenchyma and into vascular structures enables to avoid unnecessary dissection by providing a thorough assessment at every stage without the need for contrast media or ionising radiation. The limitations of restricted angulation and access within the abdominal cavity during laparoscopy can be overcome by robotic handling of miniaturised ultrasound probes and the use of various and specific frequencies will meet tissue- and organ-specific characteristics. The aim of this systematic review was to assess the reported applications of intraoperative ultrasound-guided robotic surgery and to outline future perspectives.

Methods: The study adhered to the PRISMA guidelines. PubMed, Google Scholar, ScienceDirect and ClinicalTrials.gov were searched up to October 2023. Manuscripts reporting data on ultrasound-guided robotic procedures were included in the qualitative analysis.

Results: 20 studies met the inclusion criteria. The majority (53%) were related to the field of general surgery during liver, pancreas, spleen, gallbladder/bile duct, vascular and rectal surgery. This was followed by other fields of oncological surgery (42%) including urology, lung surgery, and retroperitoneal lymphadenectomy for metastases. Among the studies, ten (53%) focused on locating tumoral lesions and defining resection margins, four (15%) were designed to test the feasibility of robotic ultrasound-guided surgery, while two (10.5%) aimed to compare robotic and laparoscopic ultrasound probes. Additionally two studies (10.5%) evaluated the robotic drop-in probe one (5%) assessed the hepatic tissue consistency and another one (5%) aimed to visualize the blood flow in the splenic artery.

Conclusion: The advantages of robotic instrumentation, including ergonomics, dexterity, and precision of movements, are of relevance for robotic intraoperative ultrasound (RIOUS). The present systematic review demonstrates the virtue of RIOUS to support surgeons and potentially reduce minimally invasive procedure times.

Keywords: Artificial intelligence; Digital surgery; Image-guided surgery; New technologies; Robotic-assisted surgery; Ultrasound.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Laparoscopy / methods
  • Robotic Surgical Procedures* / methods
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional* / methods