Ultrasound and robotics surgery pioneer to receive high award from SRI International

Menlo Park 09 June 2003Research institute SRI International has honoured Phil Green with the institute's prestigious Weldon B. Gibson Achievement Award. The award is given to an SRI staff member or team who has furthered the institute's mission by making a noteworthy impact on the improvement of the general standard of living and the peace and prosperity of society.


In his 25-year career at SRI, Phil Green made important and lasting contributions to two medical areas: ultrasonic imaging and the still-emerging concept of minimally invasive "robotic" surgery. In ultrasound, Phil Green and his team produced more than 30 inventions, many of which were licensed and are part of today's ultrasound systems. In robotic surgery, Dr. Green's work led to the creation of a successful company, Intuitive Surgical, that is revolutionising surgical procedures.

"Dr. Green's inventive genius and business acumen have made tangible contributions to the medical community and patients by providing enhanced diagnostic tools and new surgical techniques that result in shorter patient recovery periods. The institute is genuinely proud of his outstanding contributions", stated Dr. Curtis R. Carlson, SRI's president and chief executive officer.

Today, ultrasound is a mainstay in diagnostic imaging for its ability to safely image soft tissue. It is used as a primary diagnostic tool in obstetrics and gynaecology, in cardiovascular medicine, and in many other applications in which rapid, non-invasive assessment is important.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Phil Green and his colleagues took ultrasound from a low-resolution, cumbersome technology to a very refined, highly sensitive tool, capable, for example, of showing athersclerotic plaque in arteries and the pulsating blood flow around them. He also integrated ultrasound imaging with tiny instruments such as endoscopic probes, which improved sensitivity, resolution, and feature recognition.

In 1984, Dr. Green invented "reflex transmission imaging", wherein a single transducer could provide both reflective and transmissive returns involving the same region of examination. SRI's ultrasound imaging technologies have been licensed to many manufacturers in the United States, Japan, and Europe.

In the early 1980s, Phil Green had an insight that came to revolutionise surgery: a telerobotic system, controlled remotely by the surgeon, which gave the full sensory experience of conventional hands-on procedures while performing minimally invasive surgery. Prior to this development, minimally invasive surgery was so difficult to do that it could not be applied to most types of operations.

With U.S. government funding, Dr. Green and his team combined advances in miniature stereo cameras, stereo image displays, and telerobotics into what they called a telepresence surgery system. With this system, the surgeon, who could be across the room from the patient or a continent away, has the sensation of reaching directly into the patient. Auditory, visual and tactile sensations, the latter being the force or pressure felt while making an incision or suturing, are communicated directly to the surgeon without distortion or delay. The surgeon's moves are replicated exactly; tiny stitches can be made with ease on internal organs and blood vessels.

In 1995, SRI spun off Intuitive Surgical Inc. to bring the promise of this new technology to surgeons and patients worldwide. Today, Intuitive Surgical is an expert in operative surgical robotics. More than 12.000 surgeries have been completed worldwide using Intuitive's da Vinci surgical system.

Silicon Valley-based SRI International is one of the world's major independent research and technology development organisations. Founded as Stanford Research Institute in 1946, SRI has been meeting the strategic needs of clients for more than 55 years. The non-profit research institute performs contract research and development for government agencies, commercial businesses and non-profit foundations.

SRI is well known for its innovations in information technology, telecommunications, engineering, pharmaceuticals, chemistry, physics, and the public policy areas of education, health, and economic development. In addition to conducting contract R&D, SRI licenses its technologies, forms strategic partnerships and creates spin-off companies.

Leslie Versweyveld

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