"The future of surgery is not about blood and guts; the future of surgery is about bits and bytes.”
/Dr. Richard Satava/

Thursday, December 31, 2009


An international consortium centered at the University of Bern developed an integrated system for robot-driven autopsy and accurate post-mortem inspections. The Virtobot is now servicing under Forim-X AG.

"Due to the rapid technological advances in imaging techniques, with a tremendous improvement in resolution since the nineties, the next logical step was an image-guided, minimally invasive autopsy – also referred to as virtopsy (virtual autopsy). Virtopsy will become a method of choice for several reasons in the future medical examination of corpses.
Virtobot can help with much of this process: By precisely moving a scanner building up an accurate 3D picture, or by performing an accurate needle biopsy during a live CT-scan without the need to expose pathologists to any radiation. Virtobot has already been used in 52 real cases, including 26 road deaths, 10 by impacts from a blunt object, six knifings, five shootings, and two throttlings.Computed tomography will replace scalpel and scissors, 3D surface scanning will replace surface description and 2D photography, and post-mortem angiography takes over from vascular preparation. The robot guided sampling guarantees a reliable sampling for histological, bacteriological and toxicological examination."
Advantages include:
  • Precise, objective and clear documentation of forensic findings for the court
  • Descriptive, subjective recording of findings (the so-called autopsy report) is replaced by a uniform system of documentation through imaging, from head to toe in the three spatial dimensions
  • No information is lost due to post-mortem alterations
  • Calibrated, 3D documentation of findings with reliable forensic reconstructions
  • Quality assurance through digital data archiving and transfer
  • The digital data sets of the imaging techniques can be exchanged and evaluated by remote
  • communication, thus giving rise to “teleforensics” of the future, expert opinions can be gathered quickly and easily by mouse click
  • Data saved digitally can be recalled after many years to permit new forensic deductions
  • Reduction of psychological trauma for the next-of-kin
  • Improved judicature in cultures with low autopsy acceptance
Source: Forim-X AG, PubMed

Update: MedGadget also featured the Virobot, along with a video I could not publish earlier for copyright reasons. Here is another footage, from a TV spot.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Holidays

Wishing a merry merry Christmas and a happy New Year to all my dear Readers!

Monday, December 21, 2009

FDA approves transoral da Vinci procedures

In the past few years great effort has been invested to explore and develop new methods to treat tumors in the head and neck region through the mouth. UPenn initiated a TORS program in 2004, and from a cooperation with Intuitive Surgical, great results derived. Intuitive released its TORS tool family 2 years ago, and now it has gained FDA approval for oropharyngeal, laryngeal and hypopharyngeal resections, floor of mouth and oral cavity resections. Lear more about da Vinci surgery from Intuitive's 2009Q3 report.
"A minimally invasive surgical approach developed by head and neck surgeons at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine has been cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The da Vinci Surgical System (Intuitive Surgical, Inc., Sunnyvale, California) has been cleared for Trans Oral otolaryngologic surgical procedures to treat benign tumors and select malignant tumors in adults.
Drs. Gregory S. Weinstein and Bert W. O’Malley, Jr. of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine’s Department of Otorhinolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery founded the world’s first Trans Oral Robotic Surgery (TORS) program at Penn Medicine in 2004, where they developed and researched the TORS approach for a variety of robotic surgical neck approaches for both malignant and benign tumors of the mouth, voice box, tonsil, tongue and other parts of the throat. Since 2005, approximately 350 Penn patients have participated in the world’s first prospective clinical trials of TORS. These research trials compromise the largest and most comprehensive studies of the technology on record."
Source: Penn Medicine News

Update: video on trans-oral procedures
See the brochure of the procedure

Update2: several successful procedures have been reported recently:
The da Vinci cure: A robotic surgery to treat throat cancer
Head and neck surgeons turn to robotics
TORS for Resection of Skull Base Lesions
Robotic precision cuts high risks of head-and-neck cancer surgery
MTMC doctor performs new oral robotic surgery

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The VESALIUS Robot of KULeuven

The Belgian university built its own da Vinci like robot:
"The VESALIUS Robot is the first surgical robot which is 100% designed, built and owned by K.U.Leuven. Its goal is to provide accuracy, dexterity, stability and safety in laparoscopic CO2 laser ablation. In addition, thanks to its patent-pending Adjustable Remote Center of Motion (ARCM) mechanism and its modular design, VESALIUS as it is now can already provide the functions as a laparoscope holder robot. With additional R&D in MEMS, HMI, image processing, ergonomics, force feedback, biosensors, image sensors, surgical integration etc., the VESALIUS Robot platform can be easily customized, upgraded and transformed to implement all other potential robot aided MIS procedures." It's more interesting to see their vision for 2020:
  • Medical robots will be affordable to every people in need
  • Medical robots will become standard equipment in every hospital
  • Medical robots will improve accuracy, speed, dexterity and safety to surgery compared to manual techniques
  • Medical robots will reduce the learning curve in acquiring surgical skills
  • Medical robots will cut down the waiting queue for surgery
  • Medical robots will reduce the public healthcare cost
  • Medical robots will upgrade the life quality of medical professionals
Seems like medical robotcs will save the world after all. Let us see!
Read more about Vesalius robot here.

Source: www.vesaliusrobot.com

Update: Video about the robot and a newer article

Friday, December 4, 2009

PLUGFEST - Teleoperation experiment

"Using a new software protocol called the Interoperable Telesurgical Protocol, nine research teams from universities and research institutes around the world recently collaborated on the first successful demonstration of multiple biomedical robots operated from different locations in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. The new protocol was cooperatively developed by the University of Washington and SRI International, to standardize the way remotely operated robots are managed over the Internet. The protocol will allow engineers and designers that usually develop technologies independently, to work collaboratively, determine which designs work best, encourage widespread adoption of the new communications protocol, and help robotics research to evolve more rapidly. Early adoption of this protocol internationally will encourage robotic systems to be developed with interoperability in mind, and avoid future incompatibilities."

Several universities and research labs took part in the PLUGFEST 2009 event (on July 30), where the different locations connected to each other through the new protocol to perform surgical robotic tasks, such as the peg transfer from FLS. The complete list of the robots can be found here, and the sites were:

  • SRI International, Menlo Park, Calif., USA
  • University of Washington Biorobotics Lab (BRL), Seattle, Washington, USA
  • University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC), Bionics Lab, Santa Cruz, Calif., USA
  • iMedSim, Interactive Medical Simulation Laboratory, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York, USA
  • Korea University of Technology (KUT) BioRobotics Lab, Cheonan, South Chungcheong, South Korea
  • Imperial College London (ICL), London, England
  • Johns Hopkins University (JHU), Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  • Technische Universit√§t M√ľnchen (TUM), Munich, Germany
  • Tokyo Institute of Technology (TOK), Tokyo, Japan
Check out some pictures here, until the White paper of the experiment gets published.
Source: Science Daily

Update: A recent ICRA publication from the whole group describes the experiment.