AI Digital Health Robotics Surgery

Medtronic buys British surgical AI company, adding to Hugo robot effort

Dive Brief:

  • Medtronic on Thursday announced it acquired the private company Digital Surgery, which develops digital surgical tools, to build out its Minimally Invasive Therapies Group’s surgical robotics business.
  • The buyout comes as the medtech giant works to get to market a soft tissue robot that would compete for many of the same procedures Intuitive Surgical covers with its da Vinci robot.
  • Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Medtronic said Digital Surgery will retain its co-founders in leadership roles and keep its headquarters in London, “where there are plans for continued investment and workforce expansion.”

Dive Insight:

Privately held Digital Surgery currently makes products branded under the name Touch Surgery. Touch Surgery’s website describes the platform as “an interactive surgical simulator” for healthcare professionals, medical residents and device sales representatives that provides “a realistic and detailed guide to every step of a procedure,” which customers can use to prepare for surgery.

Touch Surgery apps or simulations have apparently been used for procedures with Smith & Nephew, Zimmer Biomet, and Stryker devices, among others. The company has struck past collaborations with the American Society of Anesthesiologists and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons on simulation activities, according to Digital Surgery’s website.

Given that Medtronic plans to house the company in its Minimally Invasive Therapies Group, it seems the Digital Surgery team will be close to Medtronic’s efforts to complete soft tissue robot Hugo. Medtronic gave a preview of the modular, pedestal-based robot-assisted surgery system last September at an analyst day. The technology could be used in general, urology, gynecology, thoracic, colorectal and bariatric procedures.

Megan Rosengarten, vice president and general manager of the surgical robotics business, said the types of capabilities Digital Surgery adds can also play a role in clinical decision support and reducing costs. The announcement also said the acquisition “has applicability for the Medtronic broader portfolio,” but offered few additional details.

The deal comes the same week robotic surgery market leader Intuitive Surgical made a small acquisition, buying Orpheus Medical, whose platform in part allows for capture, sharing and archiving of surgical video.

The term “digital surgery” has been used less by Intuitive and more so by broader medtechs like Johnson & Johnson. On Intuitive’s fourth quarter earnings call, Stifel analyst Rick Wise described the term as a “marketing push.” When asked how Intuitive would answer that push, CEO Gary Guthart said the “tagline” reflects issues Intuitive has been working on for a long time.

“We’ve been the Internet of Things in surgical robots for a decade, cloud-enabled for a decade. We are quite deep,” he said.

Examples Guthart gave to describe “digital surgery” included using big data to establish benchmarks by analyzing large sets of customers, helping surgeons achieve better outcomes by providing real-time computing power and standardizing education across teams using analytics.


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