Flex is one of the newer rising platforms in surgical robotics. Here are some insights into their story:
"The year was 2005. Mr. Jordan, one of four executives-in-residence at the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse on the South Side at the time, had just volunteered to help Howie Choset, a Carnegie Mellon University robotics professor, and Marco Zenati, then a cardiac surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh, develop and market a “snake robot” device for use in minimally-invasive surgeries.
The process of converting the snake robot model into a market-ready product was not easy or quick. Four years later, they had the first prototype ready for use on humans. The following year, 2010, the first clinical studies began in the Czech Republic and last summer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave approval for its use for head and neck procedures.
By then, the device had been refined into something of an engineering marvel: a one-armed articulated robot equipped with a camera that allows the surgeon to see and reach tumors in tight places.
After several name changes (“People don’t like thinking there’s a snake in their body,” said Mr. Choset), the Flex Robotic System is now the centerpiece of a $130 million privately-held Medrobotics based in Massachusetts which, a decade ago and before Google and Uber’s arrival in Pittsburgh, was a hotbed for medical device and robotic product development.
The system is also the new darling in the world of robotics medicine.
Last week, the Flex Robotic System won best-of-show at the Medical Design Excellence Awards in New York City and next month UPMC surgeon Umamaheswar Duvvuri — the first to use the Flex Robotic System on a patient last December — will lead an afternoon-long session on the surgery at the American Head and Neck Society’s international conference in Seattle."
Early clinical data on Medrobotics' Flex appeared:
"Of the 79 patients on whom Flex® was used, doctors were able to expose, visualize and access the target area in 75 (94%) of the cases. Among patients who were treated or biopsied, 72 of 79 (91%) enjoyed successful completions. Fifty-eight percent of the successful procedures (42 of 72) were performed in areas the surgeons considered difficult to reach, such as the tongue base and vocal chords. There were no device-related adverse events reported."
A nice interview with Prof. Choset.
Source: Post Gazette, MedRobotics