Assessing the learning curve associated with a novel flexible robot in the pre-clinical and clinical setting

Toby S. Zhu, Neal Godse, Daniel R. Clayburgh, Umamaheswar Duvvuri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Transoral robotic surgery has been successfully used by head and neck surgeons for a variety of procedures but is limited by rigid instrumentation and line-of-sight visualization. Non-linear systems specifically designed for the aerodigestive tract are needed. Ease of use of these new systems in both training and clinical environments is critical in its widespread adoption. Methods: Residents, fellows, and junior faculty performed four tasks on an anatomical airway mannequin using the Medrobotics FLEX™ Robotic System: expose and incise the tonsil, grasp the epiglottis, palpate the vocal processes, and grasp the interarytenoid space. These tasks were performed once a day for four days; after a 4-month time gap, subjects were asked to perform these same tasks for three more days. Time to task completion and total distance driven were tracked. In addition, a retrospective analysis was performed analyzing one attending physician’s experience with clinical usage of the robot. Results: 13 subjects completed the initial round of the mannequin simulation and 8 subjects completed the additional testing 4 months later. Subjects rapidly improved their speed and efficiency at task completion. Junior residents were slower in most tasks initially compared to senior trainees but quickly reached similar levels of efficiency. Following the break there was minimal degradation in skills and continued improvement in efficiency was observed with additional trials. There was significant heterogeneity in the analyzed clinical cases, but when analyzing cases of similar complexity and pathology, clear decreases in overall operative times were demonstrable. Conclusion: Novice users quickly gained proficiency with the FLEX™ Robotic System in a training environment, and these skills are retained after several months. This learning could translate to the clinical setting if a proper training regimen is developed. The Medrobotics FLEX™ Robotic System shows promise as a surgical tool in head and neck surgery in this study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1563-1572
Number of pages10
JournalSurgical endoscopy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • FLEX
  • Learning curve
  • Medrobotics
  • TORS
  • Training
  • Transoral robotic surgery


Dive into the research topics of 'Assessing the learning curve associated with a novel flexible robot in the pre-clinical and clinical setting'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this