Inside Vanderbilt's surgical robotics labs

"Examples include technologies for snake robots licensed to industry,  technologies for micro-surgery of the retina which lead to the formation of AURIS Surgical Robotics Inc., the IREP single port surgery robot which has been licensed to Titan Medical Inc. and serves as the research prototype behind the Titan SPORT (Single Port Orifice Robotic Technology). His lab is named the Advanced Robotics and Mechanism Applications (A.R.M.A.), and is focused on the following aspects of its mission:
  • Advancing the field of kinematics of mechanisms & robot design: We focus on developing new methods of synthesis, analysis & optimization of novel robots and mechanisms. Our current research efforts include developing a new generation of robots using flexible links, actuation redundancy, and various mechanical architectures. These robots are developed for surgical applications that include microsurgery and minimally invasive surgery.
  • Application-driven research: Although our research includes a considerable emphasis on mathematical methods of modeling of novel architectures, we aim at maintaining a sound balance between vital theoretical research topics and sound applications that benefit society. Our main focus is on developing new robots for applications in surgery. These robots may have complex and novel architectures, or simple, yet useful and beneficial mechanisms.
  • Student involvement in research: Our main educational goal is to offer a productive, competitive, and positive environment in which graduate & undergraduate students can develop. Undergraduate Students are welcome to participate in the ongoing research activity at ARMA pending space availability. See our link for undergraduate research under Education. 
    Outreach: Students and faculty and ARMA view research as an integrated part of making a positive contribution to society.We believe that this can be achieved by solving relevant engineering problems with beneficial applications as well as by training and encouraging new generations of engineers. ARMA routinely recruits high-school students, science teachers, and undergraduate students for hands-on project involvement in research and educational projects.
A recent interview reveals some of their latest prototypes and projects:

"Simaan and his team are creating a flexible robot that can maneuver into hard to reach places and give a sense of touch similar to a human hand. 
Simaan says his snake-like robots are unique because other devices that exist right now on the market are essentially motion replicators.“If I move my hand this way, the robot moves its hand similarly on the other side inside the patient,” said Simaan. “What we’re trying to do is go beyond the manipulation assistance into a process where the robot itself is helping the surgeon understand what the task is and is helping achieve the task.”Simaan says by having the robot partner with the surgeon, it helps elevate the surgeon’s skills and ultimately the quality of the surgery.The snake-like arms can move in all the directions a surgeon’s hand can move, with a “wrist” that rolls. They can also move in a very confined space and can perform dual arm tasks like knot-tying.“It’s actually better to leave some of the task, for example of regulating the force on the tissue, to the robot controller than having the human worry about it,” said Simaan. “The surgeon is still controlling that level, but they don’t have to worry about actively controlling it every fraction of a second.”
Simaan and other Vanderbilt researchers are experimenting with these robots in multiple procedures. One is vocal cord surgery—very common among singers.Currently, singers who undergo vocal nodule surgery have to undergo full anesthesia in an operating room.
“To gain access from the mouth into the airway you would have to pull basically the neck of the patient as straight as possible. You have to insert a tube through the mouth that generally butts against the teeth and helps keep the jaw open, then push the tongue out of the way,” said Simaan.The current procedure can sometimes cause injury. Simaan says his flexible robot would go through the nose, bypassing a gag reflex in the throat, turning a major surgery with full anesthesia into a more simplified out-patient procedure.“We can actually take something that’s now expensive in the way we’re doing surgery and we can maybe, with the help of new technology, simplify it, reduce trauma to the patient, and at the same time reduce health care costs,” said Simaan."

Source: Vanderbilt, Futurity, Express


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