Robotic surgery in space II.

Performing surgery in space raises many concerns and issues, with or without a robot.
The Russians performed some animal surgery (rabbit laparotomy) in microgravity. The first one was performed in 1967 by a Soviet team during parabolic flights.
The first European operation in weightlessness was performed in 2003 on a rat on board of ESA’s Zero G plane (a modified Airbus A-300). In 2006, surgeons removed a cyst from a patient arm, while the Zero-G aircraft was performing 25 parabola curves, providing 20–25 s of weightlessness every time (New Scientist, 2006). ESA planned to perform teleoperation in 2008 with a robot—controlled through satellite connection, but the project got delayed.
An experiment involving a surgical procedure in space took place in a rat model, during the Neurolab Mission (STS 90) on the U.S. Space Shuttle in 1998. The open procedure did not involve the abdominal or thoracic cavities (Panait et al. 2004). NASA had its first zero gravity surgery experiment in late September 2007 (Popular Mechanics, 2007). On a DC-9 hyperbolic aircraft suturing tasks were performed with an M7 robot. The performance of classical and teleoperated robotic knob tying were measured (SRI communications). Both the master and the slave devices were equipped with acceleration compensators, otherwise
it would have been almost impossible to succeed on the tasks. The results showed that humans can still better adapt to extreme environments, however, advanced robotic solutions do not fall far behind.
Besides, many laparoscopic simulation procedures took place during parabolic flights, and NASA tested robots in its Aquarius underwater habitat. (See next post for deatils.)

Probably the most important professional in the field of telesurgery and advocate of space robotic surgery is Richard Satava. He devoted his life to become the first to operate a human in space, and even though he qualified as a NASA flight surgeon, never got assigned to a mission. Later, he realized the importance of telesurgery and took part in the development of early surgical robot prototypes with DARPA and SRI. He still wants to be the first to remotely operate on someone in space.
"Richard M. Satava, MD, FACS is Professor of Surgery at the University of Washington Medical
Center, and Senior Science Advisor at the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Rick was the surgeon on the team that developed the first surgical robot, and developed the first virtual reality surgical simulators. For the past 15 years he has been at DARPA, and now US Army Medical Research Command, funding leading edge medical technologies at tens and hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Prior positions include Professor of Surgery at Yale University and a military appointment as Professor of Surgery (USUHS) in the Army Medical Corps assigned to General Surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Program Manager of Advanced Biomedical Technology at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)."
He has an amazing list of publications, and on his webpage, many of his eye catching presentations are available. You can even listen to him: a presentation from 2007 at UCF, another talk from 2008 at a Business Innovation Factory meeting and a great interview with him. Finally, a post on his talk at the BioRob2008 can be found here.

See our previous report here!


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