Find out about a Vanderbilt researcher's robot that can perform surgeries at tiny scales.
Only a handful of researchers worldwide have been capable of performing needlescopic surgery, which uses tiny surgical instruments with the diameter roughly the size of a sewing needle.
A new surgical robot developed at Vanderbilt University holds promise that such procedures could become much more commonplace someday. That is good news, because minimally invasive needlescopic surgeries are so small they can be sealed with surgical tape, often healing without scarring.
The robot, developed at Vanderbilt University's Medical Engineering and Discovery Lab, is a surgical robot equipped with wrists on the end of steerable needles.
It holds promise for a field that has been largely limited to removing diseased tissue with tiny lasers or heated wires, given the limited capability of precision. Not only could this technology open the door for more surgeon operators to perform different needlescopic surgeries, but it could also lead to the use of needles in places that have been beyond the reach of surgeons for years, like the throat, nose, ears, and brain. Each of these areas could now be accessible through the steerable needles that are flexible enough to provide surgeons with dexterity, something that is often compromised when tools shrink to smaller sizes.
The group hopes to test their robot on a transnasal procedure to remove tumors at the base of the skull and the pituitary gland. Such a procedure normally involves opening up the patient's face, however routing the surgery through the nasal cavity may not only be more efficient, but could significantly reduce the recovery period and limit visible scarring.
For now the group is looking to partner with someone who can eventually help provide funding for clinical trials to help it win FDA clearance. They remain confident that the software that controls the device, as well as the interface that allows surgeons to operate the robot will be completed in the coming months.
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