Professor Peter McCulloch, Professorial Fellow in Surgery and chair of the IDEAL Collaboration, is one of the contributors of expert advice to a major report that has investigated the advances that will transform surgery over the next twenty years.
For the last year, the Commission on the Future of Surgery – established by the Royal College of Surgeons and made up of some of the country’s leading doctors, engineers, data experts, managers, and patient representatives – has been investigating the advances that will transform surgery in the coming years. The Commission has predicted that surgery is about to be transformed for millions of patients by a new wave of technologies – driven by changes in digital technology and our understanding of human biology – which in some cases are only months away. Unlike many previous innovations, the forthcoming technologies are expected to affect every type of surgery, including the way it is provided and the way surgeons are trained.
More diseases could be diagnosed by blood samples instead of invasive biopsies; ‘well’ patients will undergo earlier and, in some cases, preventive operations; and hundreds of thousands of patients may no longer need to undergo some cancer operations due to advances in genomics, vaccination, and non-surgical treatments. In the more distant future, surgeons may prevent, and not just treat, osteoarthritis through stem-cell therapies, and nano-surgery performed by micro-robots could allow surgeons to operate on individual cells in the body.
Published on 7 December, the report of the Commission says that patients can confidently expect surgery to become much less invasive and more personalised, with more predictable outcomes, faster recovery times and a lower risk of harm.