While many people no doubt still look at Intuitive Surgical's da Vinci robotic surgical system as a sort of "wonder of the future," it's actually been around now for over 10 years. Therefore, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a new-and-improved model has just been announced. Among other things, the da Vinci Xi Surgical System promises a greater range of motion and more reach than its predecessor.

Like the regular da Vinci, the Xi is designed for performing minimally-invasive surgery. It does so using robotic arms equipped with long skinny surgical instruments, along with an endoscopic camera, that enter the patient's abdomen or chest via relatively small incisions.

Using a separate control system, the surgeon views real-time 3D HD video output from the camera and remotely operates the arms accordingly, in order to perform the desired procedure within the patient's body. Although that control system is often situated right in the operating room alongside the robot, it could be located as far away as another part of the world.

One of the Xi's improvements over the original system is a new overhead arrangement of the arms, which allows them to access more areas of the body without any repositioning of the robot or the patient required. According to Intuitive Surgical, this arrangement "has been optimized for complex, multi-quadrant surgeries."

The camera is also now more compact, it offers better visual definition and clarity, and it can be attached to any of the arms as needed. Those arms are smaller, thinner and feature newly-designed joints, which results in a wider range of motion. Additionally, the system now has a longer reach, thanks to longer shafts on the surgical instruments.

The Xi is also compatible with the company's Firefly Fluorescence Imaging System, which is used "to provide the surgeon with additional visual information in a variety of surgical procedures by enabling real-time visualization and assessment of vessels, bile ducts and tissue perfusion."

Intuitive Surgical is currently introducing the new system in the US, and is seeking regulatory clearances for other markets.

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