First Laparoscopic Surgery Without Human Assistance

A robot has performed the first laparoscopic surgery without human assistance. The team from Johns Hopkins University, described the procedure in the journal Science Robotics, in which the robot performed the surgery on the soft tissue of a pig without a guiding hand of a human. The device was named Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR).

According to the researchers their findings show that we can automate one of the most intricate and delicate tasks in surgery, the reconnection of 2 ends of an intestine. The STAR performed the procedure in four animals and it produced a better result when compared to humans performing the same procedure. 

This procedure requires a high level of repetitive motion and precision, and the robot excelled at it. The research was performed with a collaboration between the Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. and Jin Kang, a Johns Hopkins professor of electrical and computer engineering. 

The STAR was equipped with features for enhanced autonomy and improved surgical precision, including specialized suturing tools and state-of-the-art imaging systems that provide more accurate visualizations of the surgical field.

According to the researchers the STAR has a control system that can adjust the surgical plan in real time, just as a human surgeon would if the need arises. 

A structural-light based three-dimensional endoscope and machine learning-based tracking algorithm developed by Kang and his students guides STAR.

The researchers believe that robotic anastomosis is one way to ensure that surgical tasks that require high precision and repeatability can be performed with more accuracy and precision in every patient independent of surgeon skill, and that this type of approach will provide a better patient care and more predictable outcomes.


Johns Hopkins University. “Robot performs first laparoscopic surgery without human help.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 January 2022.
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The Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot performs soft tissue surgery on pig intestinal tissue.Carla Schaffer / AAAS