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Surgery

Three of the Raven II surgical robots (Photo: UW)

A couple of years ago, the Willow Garage robotics company gave ten of its PR2 robots away to deserving research groups. The idea behind the project was that these groups would use the PR2s for robotics research, then share their discoveries with each other, thus advancing the field farther than would be possible if they each had to build their own unique robots from scratch. Now, a similar but unrelated project is underway, and this time the robots are designed specifically to perform surgery.  Read More

The ROBOCAST Project is developing a robotic system for assisting with keyhole neurosurger...

In keyhole neurosurgery, a small “burr hole” is drilled in the patient’s skull, and their brain is then accessed through that hole. The procedure is much less invasive than many other types of brain surgery, and can be used for things such as exploratory endoscopy, biopsies, blood and fluid sampling, cryogenic and electrolytic ablation (tissue removal), and deep brain stimulation. It is used to treat conditions including tumors, hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain), Parkinson's disease, Tourette syndrome, and epilepsy. For a neurosurgeon, however, it can sometimes be extremely exacting work – a slip of even a fraction of a millimeter can cause permanent brain damage. That’s why the European Union’s ROBOCAST (ROBOt and sensors integration for Computer Assisted Surgery and Therapy) Project is developing a robotic system to help out.  Read More

Thijs Meenink and his robotic eye surgery system (Photo: Eindhoven University of Technolog...

By now, many readers are probably familiar with the da Vinci robotic surgery system. It allows a seated surgeon, using a 3D display and hand controls, to operate on a patient using robotic arms equipped with surgical instruments. Not only does the system allow for more laparoscopic surgery (in which surgical instruments access the inside of the patient’s body through small incisions, instead of one large opening), but it even makes it possible for the surgeon and the patient to be in separate geographical locations. Now, a researcher at the Netherlands’ Eindhoven University of Technology has developed a similar system, designed specifically for operations on the eye.  Read More

The Air Barrier System (ABS) which aims to reduce infection by providing a cocoon of highl...

A Texas company is developing an innovative medical device to reduce the risk of infection during surgery. Nimbic Systems' Air Barrier System (ABS) dispenses purified air through a flexible nozzle which can be fixed adjacent to the patient's incision, shielding the wound by producing a non turbulent flow of filtered air and reducing the presence of infection causing microorganisms.  Read More

The stress-shielding device, which has been shown to dramatically reduce scarring when app...

When the sutures are removed from a surgical incision, the natural tension of the surrounding skin starts to pull the two edges of the wound away from one another. While the incision site will still usually heal, that wound-opening mechanical stress causes excessive scar tissue to form. Researchers from Stanford University, however, have created a new type of dressing that removes such stress, and has been shown to dramatically reduce scarring.  Read More

A robotic intubation system that inserts endotracheal tubes in patients is being tested on...

Pretty much any time a patient is placed under a general anesthetic, a plastic endotracheal tube is inserted down their throat, in order to keep their airway open. The procedure is known as intubation, and has so far always been performed by hand. In this age of robotic surgery, however, it’s perhaps not surprising to hear that surgeons at Montreal’s McGill University Health Centre are now trying out a remote-control intubation system on human subjects.  Read More

An Australian industrial designer has invented a low-cost battery-powered surgical lamp fo...

While those of us living in First World countries may take an easily-accessible source of continuously-flowing electricity for granted, such is not the case in developing nations. Many communities have little or no electrical infrastructure, and experience frequent power outages. While people wishing to read a book in the evening could perhaps use a simple lighting device like the Solar Pebble, the matter becomes quite a bit more serious should the lights go out at a hospital, in the middle of an operation. Many hospitals have turned to using kerosene lanterns, but Australian industrial designer Michael O'Brien has created what he believes is a better alternative – a low-cost battery-powered LED surgical lamp.  Read More

Relatively complex instruments, such as this surgical retractor with integrated irrigation...

If you remember the MASH episode where Hawkeye and BJ got the Korean fix-it guy to build them a one-of-a-kind vein clamp, then you will understand the importance of custom-designed surgical tools – surgery is definitely not a field in which people should just make do with the next-best thing. Unfortunately, the production of some types of instruments can be quite involved, meaning they can't always be created quickly or cheaply. At this month's MEDTEC Europe trade show, however, researchers from Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials will be demonstrating new technology that uses a laser melting process to easily create pretty much any surgical instrument imaginable ... or so they claim.  Read More

Researchers are developing a system that would allow surgeons to control both computers an...

Although surgeons need to frequently review medical images and records during surgery, they’re also in the difficult position of not being able to touch non-sterile objects such as keyboards, computer mice or touchscreens. Stepping away from the operating table to check a computer also adds time to a procedure. Researchers from Indiana’s Purdue University are addressing this situation by developing gesture-recognition systems for computers, so that surgeons can navigate through and manipulate screen content simply by moving their hands in the air. The system could additionally be used with robotic scrub nurses, also being developed at Purdue, to let the devices know what instruments the surgeon wants handed to them.  Read More

The hands-free interface developed by the Virtopsy research project to review medical imag...

The development of open source drivers for Microsoft's Kinect motion-controller is already opening up new (if not entirely unpredictable) applications for the device. This example, developed by members of the Virtopsy research project at the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Bern in Switzerland, is a functional prototype using Kinect that provides users with a hands-free way to review radiological images.  Read More

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