Magic 8 Balls, Santa Claus, and Intuitive Surgical's Next Robot

This week in Pedersen's POV, our senior editor reflects on the big news from Intuitive Surgical.

Amanda Pedersen

January 29, 2024

2 Min Read
Pedersen's POV pull quote graphic. Pedersen's POV is a weekly opinion column on the medtech industry, published by MD+DI.

I'll never forget the Season 5 finale of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" in 2009 when the chief of surgery, Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.) tried to woo Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) into staying in the general surgery program.

"Who is Santa Claus," Webber asks Bailey as they walk toward the operating room.

"An old white man who lives at the North Pole and enters people's homes inappropriately," Bailey quips.

"No," Webber says as he opens to door to reveal the hospital's new da Vinci surgical robotics system. "I'm Santa Claus."

When he offers to let her "take it out for a spin," Bailey's expression closely resembles a little kid on Christmas morning as she squeals, "Santa!"

Cut to a later scene and Bailey is in the da Vinci surgeon's console. Webber can be heard in the background suggesting he should retract the small bowel to give Bailey better visualization.

"You know what, Chief? Thanks to Leo, you don't have to," she says, using her nickname for the surgical robot (a nod to Leonardo da Vinci). She goes on to tout the 540-degree instrument rotation capabilities of the system.

"Can't do that with a laparoscope," Bailey says.

"Or an open surgery," Webber agrees.

Setting aside the blatant product placement that played out like two full-length da Vinci commercials had been embedded into the script, seeing a major medtech product featured on such a popular medical drama made for a memorable episode for industry nerds like me.

It's uncanny how the anticipation in that fictional operating room mirrors the current buzz around Intuitive Surgical's da Vinci 5. After teasing investors earlier this month with a "no comment" on the question of a new multiport system, CEO Gary Guthart recently confirmed speculation that a da Vinci 5 launch is near. Reaction to news echoes the excitement from that "Grey's Anatomy" episode nearly 15 years ago.

Intuitive has already completed an investigational device exemption trial and a 510(k) submission to FDA. Now, the company is in the process of responding to the agency's questions. In short, this means FDA clearance could come at any time.

Of course, this revelation overturns my previous thoughts on the possibility of a new da Vinci system hitting the market this year. Based on my knowledge of the company's launch history, analyst commentary, a thorough analysis of Guthart's earlier commentary, and even my Magic 8 Ball (in jest), I had concluded last week that the outlook was "not so good" for a 2024 da Vinci 5 launch.

Much like Bailey's excitement for the da Vinci system on "Grey's Anatomy," the medtech community now eagerly awaits further details of Intuitive Surgical's latest innovation. Consulting my Magic 8 Ball once more, I find that Santa Claus may indeed be delivering a da Vinci 5 system to the U.S. robotic surgery market in 2024.

About the Author(s)

Amanda Pedersen

Amanda Pedersen is a veteran journalist and award-winning columnist with a passion for helping medical device professionals connect the dots between the medtech news of the day and the bigger picture. She has been covering the medtech industry since 2006.

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