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About the Commission

About the Commission in the Future of SurgeryIn the last 50 years, new findings and innovations have transformed surgery and the way clinical care is delivered. Innovations that were unthinkable only a few decades or years ago are now common practice.

To reduce surgical trauma on the patient, surgery has moved towards ever less invasive interventions, with fewer but more-precise cuts and incisions. Surgery is thus shifting from seeing, feeling and manipulating organs and tissues through the surgeon’s own eyes and hands, to using an intelligent robotic medium to see and intervene inside the body.

Developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning suggest a future where surgeons and machines will operate in closer synergy, one making up for the weaknesses of the other. Discoveries in genetics point the way towards preventive strategies and patient-targeted therapeutic interventions, with fundamental consequences for surgical decision making and the way we treat patients. Advances in regenerative medicine lay the path towards a future where organs and tissues grown in the laboratory or built with three-dimensional printing could solve problems such as the shortage of organs or life dependency on immunosuppressive drugs.

The scope of our enquiry

The Commission will initially consider how demographic changes and the burden of disease will affect the delivery of surgical care.

We will then explore and identify the innovations that will most likely affect surgical treatment in areas such as:

  • Minimally invasive surgery
  • Robot-assisted surgery
  • Nanotechnology
  • Imaging
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Virtual reality
  • Augmented reality
  • Genetics and genomics
  • Regenerative medicine
  • Tissue engineering
  • Transplantation
  • 3D printing and planning
  • Implants and prosthetics
  • Stem cells
  • Pharmacology
  • Developments that may alter the choice of surgery as the preferred therapeutic intervention, or even make surgery redundant.

Commissioners will evaluate the possible relevance and value of such innovations, and their implications for:

  • Patients and their choice of treatment in a rapidly changing health and social care system
  • The training and role of future surgeons
  • Staffing and career pathways of the surgical team
  • Ethical and regulatory challenges
  • Patient safety
  • Clinical outcomes

We will take into account advances in digital technology and data, and health system challenges that will affect the future delivery of surgery – for example the risk of antimicrobial resistance, the development of new non-surgical interventions, the emergence of new care models, or the affordability challenges facing modern health systems.

Download our Terms of Reference

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