Tech: Surgeons’ workload Assuaged By New Surgery Base Robot

Photo Credit: Bart van Overbeeke/Eindhoven University of Technology

Drilling out a hole in the skull base requires great precision and often takes many hours, a demanding procedure for a surgeon. Researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) have developed a surgical robot to take over this task.

With sub-millimeter precision, the robot can automatically and safely mill a cavity of the desired shape and dimensions. Jordan Bos received his PhD on 16 April for the robot he designed and built. The robot is expected to perform its first surgery within five years.

Each year, surgeon’s carry out trepanation on more than 100,000 people worldwide, for example to treat infections or cancer, or to place a cochlear implant. This is a delicate task, because they come across quite a few structures that they must avoid, such as motor and sensory nerves, and structures of the inner ear.

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In addition, bone filings and blood impede the view through the microscope during the procedure. The surgeon must therefore work with extreme concentration, often for hours, in an uncomfortable posture.

At the request of ENT doctor and skull base surgeon Dirk Kunst of the Radboud UMC in Nijmegen, Jordan Bos developed a robot to take over at least part of these operations. He first visited about 20 skull base operations to study these interventions, and then devised about 20 concepts.

Photo Credit: Bart van Overbeeke/Eindhoven University of Technology

He created a detailed design of the best concept and built a prototype, which is now ready, and with which the first technical tests have already been performed.

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The robot, called RoBoSculpt, works on the basis of precise instructions from the surgeon, who accurately indicates the drill site on CT images of the patient’s skull. The robot consists of an advanced arm that holds a surgical drilling tool.

Before the operation, the patient’s head is accurately fixed in position and then the robot mills the desired cavity.

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