Sunday, March 18, 2007

Space technology powers robotic neurosurgery

U037795M Heng Kuan Yen u0303827(at)

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.



Medical said...

A very important additional feature of NeuroArm is that this system recreates the sight, sound and touch of surgery. It's manipulators have end-effectors that ape human hands. Each of these end-effectors are endowed with a three-dimensional force-sensor providing the robot with its sense of touch. Thus the surgeon can actually 'feel' whats going on in the operation. Moreover, the neuroArm controllers are also equipped with safety switches that prevent accidental movements being transmitted to the robot, thus eliminating the natural tremor of the hand.
Another additional feature of this neuroArm is that it is the first ever MR compatible microsurgical robot.
Such advances can definitely help in performing surgical operations in very small and sensitive parts of the human body, like the eyes, the arteries, eardrums, etc.
-Gayathri Shankaranarayanan

Medical said...

The neuroArm might very well be excessive for operations on parts of the body other than the brain. There's other devices such as the Da Vinci Surgical System which have similar features, but rely on surgical microscopes to provide real-time images.

Heng Kuan Yen