Several studies and efforts are made to make it possible for robots to help in critical surgeries. And now this can become a reality with the first ever robot that has successfully aided in a risky surgery, which involved placement of a small hearing implant with unprecedented precision in the inner ear. A 51-year-old female attempting an assistive hearing surgery was the first patient to go through robot-assisted cochlear implantation.
The surgical system consists of a robotic drill optimized for possibly the tricky component of the surgery, which is, piercing a channel deep via the skull bone right into the inner ear. This robot makes a hole with the utmost degree of precision yet accounted for a medical device of its type and is offered with several safety measures such as an optical camera, which can follow the robot on a range of 25μm.
Cochlear implantation includes feeding a 0.3–1 mm thin hearing-assistive electrode via a small surgically pierced passageway into the cochlea. Surgeons must drill the channel via the cramped area of the inner and middle ear without hampering the close by taste and facial nerves that are only micrometers away from the channel route.
The two nerves have a 2.5 mm space between them and hence a 1.8 mm hole is drilled in this space. Thus, the surgeons are required to be extremely accurate while performing the surgery as only 0.5–0.7 mm space is available on both sides. And even a least inaccurate step can result in irreparable damage and this is where the human ability is put to test.
The process starts with a vigorous computer analysis of the skull structure of a patient so as to personalize the robotic treatment preparation. This blueprint coupled with numerous safety measures entwined into the process pre, during, and post surgery, validates that the robot is piercing in the accurate location. The notable robotic section of the system is that it involves sensors that authenticate the robot to be at a secure distance from the vital structures and is not destructing the neighboring tissues.
This is a much-needed success in the field of robotics and we hope to witness more in the future.