Star Trek in urology: Surgery, Jim, but not as we know it

13 April 2014

Astrophysicist Lawrence Krauss’s wonderful book “The Physics of Star Trek”, looked at how the vision of the future presented in the cult TV series might (just) be achieved through the development of advanced technology. This was the premise of the “New technologies: Star Trek in urology” session, with one important difference – many of the seemingly impossible technologies are already here – at least for a few groundbreaking urologists.

Prof. Prokar Dasgupta (UK) opened with a state-of-the-science view on how we should be training urologists to deal with these innovations. As he said in his article in Sunday’s EAU Congress News, “Urology remains at the forefront of surgical evolution…it is vital that urology training constantly adapts to these changes in practice”.

The overriding theme of the rest of the session was how new technologies are giving surgeons possibilities which would have been unthinkable only a couple of years ago. We have already seen the degree of accuracy which can be achieved by the best robotic surgery, but the integration of imaging, information, and surgical techniques will allow levels of patient care far beyond what we can deliver now.

Prof. Richard Satava (US) explained the changes we can look forward to: “People of my generation have grown up in an industrial age, but this is a different word, an information-based age”. He held out the prospect of completely non-invasive surgery, with ultrasound or electromagnetic rays performing the surgery, after MRI or CT imaging.

Summing up the session, Chair Professor Alexandre Mottrie (BE) quoted Charles H. Mayo, co-founder of the Mayo Clinic, who said “The only thing that is permanent is change”. Professor Mottrie continued, “This is as true in surgery as anywhere else. This was a great session, and I think we have all learned a lot about the possibilities. With the new era of information technology, surgery will change completely in the future. As urologists, we need to stay on top of that wave”.

There is a famous summation of Star Trek; “Space may be the final frontier, but it’s made in a Hollywood basement”. So yesterday’s session was not really SciFi, but the result of hard work and inspiration; it’s real, and it’s here, now.