Cooperative Assistance in Robotic Surgery through Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning

by   Paul Maria Scheikl, et al.

Cognitive cooperative assistance in robot-assisted surgery holds the potential to increase quality of care in minimally invasive interventions. Automation of surgical tasks promises to reduce the mental exertion and fatigue of surgeons. In this work, multi-agent reinforcement learning is demonstrated to be robust to the distribution shift introduced by pairing a learned policy with a human team member. Multi-agent policies are trained directly from images in simulation to control multiple instruments in a sub task of the minimally invasive removal of the gallbladder. These agents are evaluated individually and in cooperation with humans to demonstrate their suitability as autonomous assistants. Compared to human teams, the hybrid teams with artificial agents perform better considering completion time (44.4 number of collisions (44.7 under control of an artificial agent (11.4 formulation of the learning problem was favored over a single-agent formulation on this surgical sub task, due to the sequential learning of the two instruments. This approach may be extended to other tasks that are difficult to formulate within the standard reinforcement learning framework. Multi-agent reinforcement learning may shift the paradigm of cognitive robotic surgery towards seamless cooperation between surgeons and assistive technologies.


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