Would you let a robot operate on your beating heart? The DLR Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics in Germany has developed a system called MicroSurge that is capable of minimally invasive surgery (MIS). The robotic surgery system can perform small incisions in a patient’s skin, and it can even undertake complex operations such as heart surgery.
The machine is operated by the surgeon, who is separated from the operation area. Instead of replacing the surgeon, the MicroSurge augments their skills by replacing any lost hand-eye-coordination and assisting direct manual contact to the operation area.
To overcome the drawbacks of conventional MIS, telepresence and telemanipulation techniques play an important role. In this case, the instruments are held by specialized robot arms and remotely commanded by the surgeon who sits at an input console. The surgeon is also able to virtually gain direct access to the operating field by having 3D endoscopic sight, force feedback, and restored hand-eye-coordination.
“Our ultimate ambition is robot-supported surgery on the beating heart,” said Tilo Wüsthoff, an industrial designer at German national aeronautics and space research centre DLR speaking to Dezeen. “For the surgeon this means that he will see a virtually stabilised video picture of the beating heart. He can focus on his task while the robot follows the motion of the beating heart.”
The DLR team also has deep space ambitions such as tele manipulation techniques that would also allow surgeons on earth to operate on astronauts in space. “Ensuring medical assistance for astronauts with telemanipulated robots is part of different visions for long-term space missions to remote locations such as Mars,” said Wüsthoff.