Miniature flexible robot can perform precise, delicate surgeries

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Researchers have developed a prototype of a miniature robot that is capable of performing delicate surgeries including a cataract surgery.

The robot named Axsis has been developed by Cambridge Consultants and the novelty of the robot is that it is not only the smallest ever made for surgical use, it is also the most precise ever. Robots have long been used for surgical needs, but they have traditionally been large by design. One of the primary reasons behind their larger size has been their use in applications such as need to control long, straight instruments; to exert forces on body during surgery; and to adapt to multiple configurations and the degrees of freedom needed to effectively operate them.

Researchers at Cambridge Consultants have shown that instead of using straight instruments, flexible components can be used to come up with miniature robots that are much smaller in size. Further, with the right instrument design, the outer diameter of the minimally invasive access point can also be reduced.

Through Axsis researchers have shown how the next wave of miniature systems can revolutionise procedures that require very small and precise movements to access complex or obstructed structures within the body. Thanks to its miniature design, Axsis and other similar robots can allow surgeons and doctors to work with multiple types of tools, and to get closer to the patient without the barrier of large equipment. It also makes procedures less invasive, by enabling surgeons to create much smaller incisions.

It is not just cataract surgery that Axsis can perform, but the team behind the miniature robot insists that it demonstrates how the novel system design could improve the way medical professionals approach a variety of other procedures that require a high level of precision and minimally invasive access.

From early intervention procedures for cancer, to expanding the reach of natural orifice surgery for oesophageal and gastrointestinal tract procedures, the high precision, control and access offered by accurate and flexible systems like Axsis can enable surgical outcomes not possible today. Beyond that, Axsis could allow for robotics to be used in procedures that are currently only performed by hand, such as the placement of certain neurostimulation implants.

By creating space efficiency within the operating theatre, Axsis’s small size also promises significant cost savings and lowers the barrier to entry for less experienced robotic surgeons and smaller hospitals, as robotic tools can be swapped in and out as needed. This improves hospital operations while opening up greater access for patients.

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