A research team from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) has succeeded in developing a surgical robot for extremely sensitive areas like the human brain and spinal cord, which is impossible to access with existing surgical robots.
A medical team from Severance Hospital of Yonsei University Health System demonstrated an operation that removed a brain tumor from a cadaver using the newly-developed next-gen active cannula robot at Severance Hospital, Seoul on Nov. 2. It was not necessary to open the scull, since the operation was done through the nose.
Dr. Kim Sun-ho from Severance Hospital said, “Previously, it was nearly impossible to remove a tumor located below the brain with existing surgical procedures using endoscopes and microscopes.” Dr. Kim added, “The newly-developed surgical robot will allow doctors to do surgery on areas where existing surgical instruments cannot reach.”
The prime example is the da Vinci Surgical System, a robot used for laparoscopic surgery. After approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2000, more than 3000 units have been distributed worldwide. The robotic arm of the da Vinci is 8 mm in diameter, but the newly-developed one is only 4 mm. The new one can support up to 500g and bend at a 90° angle. Hence, it is possible to conduct microscopic surgery on the brain and spine. The research team is planning to decrease the thickness of the robotic arm up to 2 mm and to enable two doctors to perform surgery at the same time using four robotic arms.
The team is aiming to commercialize the product in three to five years, after a follow-up study including animal testing and clinical trials. In particular, they are going to develop medical devices by taking advantage of technology used in new surgical robots, and to commercialize those devices in partnership with a local small and medium-sized enterprise.
Dr. Lee Woo-sup from KIST remarked, “Surgical robots specifically made for extremely sensitive areas
like the human brain have neither been commercialized nor developed.” Lee added, “The new surgical robot is the greatest achievement in microscopic surgery, which has been impossible with existing robots. So, I think that we will be able to cultivate new overseas markets.”