Wednesday, June 16, 1999 Published at 17:42 GMT 18:42 UK
Surgery continues into robot age
The robot arms are extremely precise
A robot is being used to help surgeons perform tricky heart bypass surgery more accurately.
Heart bypasses are heavily invasive and risky to the patient.
But doctors cannot easily perform such operations through a "keyhole" in the chest - or endoscopically - which poses less risk.
It is the latest in a series of innovations in recent years to bring robot technology into the operating theatre.
In February doctors in Belgium announced success with a similar robot that could be operated by surgeons over telephone lines.
And doctors in the UK are evaluating a technique of fixing swollen arteries around the heart by inserting equipment into the artery by the groin and moving it up to where it is needed.
The German robot is so precise it can stitch together veins and arteries around the heart by remote control.
Professor Reichenspurner, who has been testing the equipment on pigs' hearts, said: "Basically it allows endoscopic microsurgery on the heart.
"This was not possible and was not done before because your hand gets very imprecise when you work with a long instrument through a small hole in the chest."
The robot has three arms - two operated by the surgeon's hands and a third that carries a voice-controlled camera.
This allows the surgeon to see what is going on inside the enclosed space of the chest cavity.
Patients who undergo a robot-assisted operation are expected to return to normal life within two weeks of what was once a life-threatening operation.
You can find out more about the robot on Tomorrow's World, broadcast on BBC 1, Wednesday at 19.30 BST.