New microsurgery robot is five times as precise as a human hand

New microsurgery robot is five times as precise as a human hand
One of the robotic arms and the accompanying joystick. Credit: Bart van Overbeeke.

A very steady hand and a lot of concentration: carrying out highly precise operations – for example to repair blood vessels or nerve fibers – places such high demands on surgeons that few are able to do it successfully. That means long waiting times for patients who need operations, for example after a serious accident or for the removal of a tumor. Mechanical engineer Raimondo Cau has developed a new robot specially for microsurgery. It enables surgeons to operate shaking-free with five times greater precision than by hand, so waiting lists can be shortened. Cau will gain his PhD on 5 February at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e).

In reconstructive surgery, tissue removed from other places in the body is used to repair the form and function of the body. This is done for example in , in children with congenital malformations or victims of serious accidents. The operations that are needed to attach and to new tissue require such high precision that only a small number of surgeons can carry them out successfully. That means waiting times can easily be several months, and in some cases even more than a year.

Challenge

Prof. René van der Hulst, plastic surgeon at the Academic Hospital Maastricht (azM), asked TU/e to find a solution to this problem. Mechanical engineer Raimondo Cau took up the challenge, under the supervision of prof. Maarten Steinbuch. After observing numerous operations and holding discussions with microsurgeons, Cau built a working prototype that is five times as accurate as a human hand. "This is a tremendous step for microsurgery", says Van der Hulst. "Especially because we can see that there is an increasing need for highly precise reconstruction operations such as microsurgery and breast reconstruction."

Smaller movements

The robot has two joysticks operated by the surgeon. The movements of the joystick are 'scaled' to match the arms of the robot, which contain tools for the operation: a large deflection of the joystick is translated into a small movement of the . A foot pedal allows the surgeon to select the degree of scaling. The robot also filters out shaking of the hands, and gives the robot arms an extra strong response to contact ('force feedback').

Making new operations possible

This robot will enable more surgeons to carry out highly precise , and will allow to be shortened. The robot also reduces the physical burden on the surgeon. A third benefit is that the robot will make new and more precise operations possible, such as difficult reconstructions of the hand or face. The prototype will now be further developed together with azM, and the results of the first clinical tests are expected within the next year.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Robots learn from each other on 'Wiki for robots'

Jan 13, 2014

Now it's not just people – robots are also connected by internet thanks to RoboEarth. Next week, after four years of research, scientists at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), Philips and four other ...

Da Vinci surgical robot makes a tiny paper airplane

Apr 05, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The da Vinci surgical robot may be best known for performing prostate, gynecological, and heart valve surgeries. But in its spare moments, as Dr. James Porter of the Swedish Medical Center ...

Recommended for you

Fluorescent dyes 'light up' brain cancer cells

Jan 30, 2015

Two new fluorescent dyes attracted to cancer cells may help neurosurgeons more accurately localize and completely resect brain tumors, suggests a study in the February issue of Neurosurgery, official journal of the Congre ...

'Vast majority' of neurosurgeons practice defensive medicine

Jan 30, 2015

More than three-fourths US neurosurgeons practice some form of defensive medicine—performing additional tests and procedures out of fear of malpractice lawsuits, reports a special article in the February issue of Neurosurgery, offici ...

Facelift surgery after massive weight loss poses challenges

Jan 29, 2015

Patients undergoing bariatric surgery for severe obesity are often left with excess, sagging skin affecting all areas of the body—including the face. The unique challenges of facelift surgery in this group of patients—and ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.