Brain surgery is certainly no easy feat, involving intricate and delicate procedures which require a high degree of expertise. However, a robot capable of neurosurgery has been developed and tested. The $30 million project, dubbed neuroArm, incorporates space-age technology from NASA to ensure operating accuracy to within thousandths of a millimetre.
Pioneered by Dr. Garnette Sutherland of the University of Calgary in Canada, the robot substitutes for the hands of a neurosurgeon. A special workstation enables the neurosurgeon to manipulate the robotic arms remotely with controllers that provide tactile feedback and reduce tremors or accidental movement. Meanwhile both man and machine are guided with real-time images, either taken from a surgical microscope or 3D magnetic resonance imaging.
This technology is expected to open up entirely new possibilities in the field. Besides the obvious improvements in precision and reliability, neurosurgeons can now perform image-guided practice simulations beforehand, a feature which can also be used for training. Furthermore, the operating surgeon is no longer required to be physically present beside the patient since the system can be controlled from a remote workstation.
The neuroArm system has only recently passed the testing phase, and manufacturing is now underway. Within a year or two, we could be seeing this technological marvel in the operating room.