Researchers Develop Robot-Assisted High-Precision Surgery

Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - 13:35

Researchers from Maastricht University has passed the first human trial of a robot for “supermicrosurgery,” a term referring to surgery on vessels that range from 0.3 to 0.8 millimeters.

According to the MIT Technology report, researchers assembled a group of 20 women with lymphedema, a condition related to breast cancer in which excess fluid collects in tissues, causing swelling.

They were all scheduled to receive surgery to relieve their symptoms by connecting lymph vessels to nearby veins, thus bypassing the affected area. They were split into two groups: one to receive solely manual surgery, the other to be operated on by surgeons using a robotic system called MUSA, manufactured by a Dutch company called Microsure.

The system is activated by foot pedals, and a surgeon controls the high-precision surgical instruments using forceps-like joysticks, mounted to the operating table. This setup basically cancels out small tremors in the surgeons’ hands and scales down their hand movements into more refined and subtle versions. For example, if the surgeon moves one of the joysticks by one centimeter, the robot arm moves a tenth of a millimeter.

The group under robotic surgery healed slightly more quickly when researchers checked back on them, but, beyond that, there were few differences between the two. However, the point of the trial was to prove that the robotic system is safe and feasible, rather than to demonstrate superiority.

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