Those who visited our Expand events in San Francisco and New York last year already know that Intuitive Surgical's da Vinci robot allows for minimally invasive surgery while still giving doctors the kind of dexterity and control they need to do the job. However, the current iteration of the system, the da Vinci Si, is only optimal when targeting a small, focused area. If the surgeon wants to explore a different part of the body mid-operation, he or she would need to reposition the entire apparatus, which sometimes means driving the patient cart around to the other side or having to wedge the da Vinci base in between the patient's legs. Today, however, Intuitive Surgical has announced the da Vinci Xi, a brand new surgical robot that promises to make it a lot easier for surgeons to perform exactly those kinds of complex surgeries.

Indeed, the big feature of the Xi is that it has four arms mounted onto an overhead boom architecture that can rotate and pivot into virtually any position. The arms can even be disconnected and reconnected mid-procedure if the doctors feel like swapping them around. According to Paul Millman, the company's Vice President of product development, a surgeon could disconnect the arm, rotate the whole boom a 180 degrees and reattach it in just a minute or two. Further, the endoscope used to see what's inside the body is far easier to set up and supposedly delivers sharper and more defined three-dimensional images. It can also now be attached to any arm, which lets the surgeon scope out the surgical area with more flexibility. The arms of the da Vinci themselves are now smaller, thinner and have a greater range of motion. Even the instrument shafts -- the sleeves that are inserted inside the incision -- are longer so that surgeons can probe further than before.

"Say a surgeon is removing cancer in the uterus... He or she might need to explore other areas like near the diaphragm, or the stomach... there are different sites where the cancer is likely to spread," says Millman. "With the new robot, you can now excise that cancer right in the same procedure." He adds, "Our goal is to take away the barriers from using this technology. We're removing steps and complications where we can." As the FDA has just granted clearance to the da Vinci Xi, you probably won't see it in your local hospital any time soon. However, if you want to get an even better idea of what the da Vinci Xi can do, feel free to have a peek at the company-provided video below.