Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Anesthesia On Autopilot

For years people, mostly medical students, have feared that anesthesiology would succumb to the inevitable advances in technology. Anesthesiologists would be relegated to the role of observers while robots did the actual work. Witness the high expectations of the automated Sedasys system for infusing propofol.

But reality always has a way of sneaking back into the picture. Skilled anesthesiologists look like they're replaceable because they make everything look easy. But that is only possible through years of education and hard work. While one might be able to program a robot to give anesthesia in ASA 1 patients, life will throw you an unexpected curve. As the video above of a Tesla on Autopilot shows, machines are only as capable as their programmers. And no programmer is going to write software that will cover every single possibility that might crop up during a case.

At that point, do you want to be the patient that crashes into the barrier at 70 miles per hour behind robot controlled anesthesia, or would you rather be the one being steadily guided by human hands around an innocuous bend in the road?

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