Back in 1985, a robot called the Puma 56 was used to place a needle for a brain biopsy using CT guidance. And three years following the introduction of that device, came the Probot, which was developed at Imperial College London to perform prostatic surgery.

Now in the 21st century, surgical procedures have progressed to the point where a wide variety of surgeries can be done using automated devices. In May 2006 the first unmanned surgery took place in Italy. And just last month Dr. Todd Tillmanns reported results of what can be called the largest multi-institutional study on the use of the da Vinci robotic surgical system in gynecologic oncology.

Given that the presence of robotics in surgeries is likely to continue to grow, St. Joseph's Health System (SJHS; Atlanta) has established an initiative to develop a non-profit training center for robotic surgical teams all across the world. The health system has named the center the International College of Robotic Surgery, or ICRS.

"St. Joseph has long been involved in robotic-assisted-surgeries we started back in 2002," Mike Treacy, of ICRS, told Medical Device Daily Thursday."There has been a high interest [by the health system] in training other teams."

ICRS is geared toward robotic surgery education via what St. Joseph's calls a "Total Team Training Approach."

The ICRS will be the first training initiative of its kind that is focused strictly on cardiac surgeries, Treacy added. Plans call for the center to eventually branch out to other categories, but cardio surgery will provide a plausible starting point for the training center.

Douglas Murphy, MD, and Sudhir Srivastava, MD two of the country's leading authorities on robotic cardiothoracic surgery will provide training at ICRS for all da Vinci Surgical System robotic surgery specialties, beginning with intracardiac and cardiac revascularization, including TECAB.

The da Vinci has become a focal point of robotic surgeries and was designed to enable complex surgery using a minimally invasive approach. The product is manufactured by Intuitive Surgical (Sunnyvale, California).

There are several means of receiving training. There is videoconferencing with a team at the ICRs; live teams can come and interact with surgeons in person; and there is an online class designed for surgeons.

In a nutshell, ICRS programs will be available online and using interactive, advanced communications technology with ongoing remote proctoring support until the surgeon and his team feel confident and comfortable with the robotic system.

In development is a plan to cross-train teams in different locations, Treacy added.

Each member of the robotic team will partner with the corresponding member of the trainee's team to ensure that specific needs are taught.

SJHS said that ICRS sets the standard in the teaching and training of robotic surgeons and their respective surgical teams, calling forth a paradigm shift from contemporary medical training practices.

Training is slated to begin this spring.

"We have seen the tremendous benefits to patients from robotic-assisted surgery since we began our program in 2002," says Kirk Wilson, president/CEO of St. Joseph's Health System."Robotics will become the standard of care and we want to help other surgeons and their surgical teams learn and actively use the technology so they can work with their hospitals to develop strong, viable programs for patients."

St. Joseph's began its robotic surgical program seven years ago with Murphy, who served as the principal investigator for Intuitive's da Vinci Surgical System technology in clinical trials prior to FDA approval.

The health system was named the Southeastern training center for the da Vinci system in 2004 and said it will continue to expand its program to include thoracic, urologic, gynecologic and general surgery procedures.