Robots are everywhere now, and the medical world is no different. There may not be complete robotic surgeons just yet, but various automated technology is making its way slowly into the operating room. A breakthrough for the medical world has come this month in the form of a tiny robot that is a world’s first. This marvelous device that replaces the need for a doctor entirely to perform certain segments of a larger surgical procedure.
Stefan Weber is a professor at the University of Bern, Switzerland’s ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research and lead author of the study, and he said, “We were on this project for more than eight years. And in contrast to a lot of research, we really stuck to one application for the entire time.” Weber and his team designed and created a robot that was able to drill a very thin tunnel into a human skull during a cochlear implant surgery. But, in theory there’s no reason why this device can’t be used on other types off surgeries too.
During a cochlear implant procedure, surgeons have to drill a 2.5 millimeter wide tunnel through a section of skull that’s surrounded by taste and facial nerves. Because of the intricacy of this procedure, between 30 and 55 percent of patients actually lose some hearing during the process of getting the implant. Weber says, “Humans are operating at the limits of their skill-sets, haptically ad visually. But if it’s designed right, a robotic system can operate at any resolution – whether it’s a millimeter you need or a tenth of a millimeter.”
So after years of research and work building the robot, it looks like it’s finally paid off. The robot was first successfully used on a 51 year old patient last year and since then three more successes have followed. Moving forward, Weber and team and now working on using a robot in a different step of the implant procedure – threading an electrode into the inner ear.