The da Vinci robotic surgical system may be a handy assistant in the operating theater, but a high price tag could be keeping it out of reach of some hospitals. Now the company behind it, Intuitive Surgical, has announced the da Vinci X, a new version of the robot designed to be a little easier on the budget, while still providing most of the abilities of the flagship model.

The new da Vinci X is designed to slip in between the earlier Si model and the da Vinci Xi, which is still the top of the line when it comes to surgery robots. The da Vinci Si was able to roll in on a side cart, letting surgeons perform procedures more precisely with its array of mechanical arms. Introduced in 2014, the da Vinci Xi not only upgraded those arms with better movement, reach and dexterity, but moved them from a side cart to an overhead arrangement. From that vantage point, Intuitive Surgical says, the robot has better access to more parts of the body.

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The da Vinci X takes the thinner, more capable arms and instruments of the Xi and moves them onto a cart like the Si model. That means the system sacrifices some of the versatility of the higher-end model, like the ability to perform procedures in several parts of the body at once, but that's the trade-off for the lower price. Intuitive Surgical says the da Vinci X is best designed for procedures in the lower abdomen like prostratectomy, hysterectomy and hernia repair.

On the plus side, the X does bring across some other Xi features not seen on the Si model, including voice and laser guidance systems, a lightweight endoscope, and the same control console and 3D optics system that lets surgeons see into the patients as they operate the device.

There's no specific word yet on price, but to help get the systems into more hospitals, Intuitive says it offers a few different financing options. The system is also designed to allow a practice to add more functions later, or eventually upgrade to the da Vinci Xi if they need to.

Intuitive Surgical has now received a CE mark for the da Vinci X, which greenlights its use in Europe. Before it can be rolled out in the US though, it will need to undergo FDA approval.

Source: Intuitive Surgical