Meet Hugo: Medtronic's robotic-assisted surgery system makes global debut in Chilean clinic

Medtronic Hugo
The Hugo system includes wristed instruments and 3D visualization technology to help surgeons perform minimally invasive surgeries, like the prostatectomy conducted this month in Chile. (Medtronic)

One small procedure for a robotic-assisted surgery system means one giant leap for Medtronic. The company's Hugo system was used in its first-ever patient procedure: a minimally invasive prostatectomy performed in Santiago, Chile.

Using a range of modular instruments and 3D visualization technology, the surgeon can control up to four independent robotic arms during the procedure from one console.

Hugo can also capture video of the entire undertaking, which can be shared with medical teams for further training, through enterprise technology that Medtronic added to the system through its acquisition of Digital Surgery last year. 

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Clinical data from Hugo’s global debut were immediately added to the system’s patient registry, according to Medtronic. As the system is used to complete more procedures, that data will be used to support the medtech giant's future regulatory submissions. The system has not yet been cleared in the U.S. or Europe.  

Medtronic unveiled Hugo about two years ago with the goal of driving down costs and boosting the use of robotic-assisted surgery for minimally invasive procedures. Though the technology is linked to fewer post-op complications and shorter hospital stays, it is currently used in less than 3% of all surgeries, the company said.

In addition to the high costs of many robotic-assisted surgery systems, most present physical barriers as well. Not only do they often take up a lot of space in operating rooms, but they are also time-consuming to set up and take down before and after each procedure.

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The Hugo system aims to eliminate these issues. During its unveiling at a 2019 investor presentation, Medtronic said it ultimately hopes to make the system available to surgical teams at a per-procedure cost similar to that of a routine manual laparoscopy.

Each part of Hugo's system is housed on a separate, compact rolling cart. The robotic arms and visualization tower can therefore be moved throughout a hospital as necessary—compared to the leading Da Vinci system from Intuitive Surgical, which is intended to be permanently placed in a single operating room.

Additionally, the cart housing Hugo’s visualization technology can also be used on its own, sans robotic arms, to perform routine laparoscopic procedures. It’s equipped with a standard endoscope and also offers surgeons the added benefit of the system’s high-tech 3D imaging tool.