Robotic Physician Assistant Has Steady 'Hands'

A new microsurgical robot developed in Belgium has some pretty steady "hands".


(Physician's assistant robot)

For the first time ever, a team of eye surgeons were able to inject a thrombolytic drug directly into a patient’s retinal vein to dissolve a blood clot. It was a success despite the fact that the vein is as thin as human hair thanks to a surgical robot developed by researchers from KU Leuven, a university in Belgium. The condition they treated is called retinal vein occlusion, and it leads to reduced eyesight and blindness. At the moment, doctors can only suppress its effects with monthly eye injections, because the retinal vein itself is only around 0.1 millimeter wide. It’s just much too thin for manual injections when the drug has to be administered for 10 minutes straight.

To address the issue, the researchers created a robot that can help a surgeon insert the needle precisely and then hold it perfectly still. They also designed the 0.03 millimeter needle, which is three times thinner than human hair, needed to inject the drug into the tiny vein. According to the university, the method successfully dissolved the blood clot and the patient is now doing well.

The precient micro-surgery tool from Raymond Z. Gallun's 1939 short story Masson's Secret provides a peek into this technology three-quarters of a century ahead of time:

In his slender hands he held a surgical instrument he had invented. It was a marvel! There was a long steel arm or standard that could be clamped on the end of an operating table. At the end of the arm was a binocular microscope. Beneath the latter were hundreds of screw buttons. And gathered right where the microscope was focused - where a needle-point beam of intense light could be projected for illumination - there was a ring of tiny metal prongs. You turned the screws below and the prongs moved - any or all of them - in any plane or direction you could mention, and with caliper slowness, minuteness and precision. At the end of each prong was a surgical tool - blades, tweezers, probes - so fine you could just see them with the naked eye.

Micro-surgery!.. With an apparatus like that, it wasn't hard to believe that one could sort out and rejoin properly each of the countless, individual fibers of, say, a severed optic nerve.

Via Device Daily.

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