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Robot's Gentle Touch Aids Delicate Cancer Surgery

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Dr. Rajni Patel and MIS robot in the CSTAR research lab

Dr. Rajni Patel and one of the minimally invasive surgical robots in the Canadian Surgical Technologies & Advanced Robotics (CSTAR) research lab.

Credit: CSTAR

Canadian researchers have developed a robot capable of detecting tumor tissue in half the time it takes a human surgeon and with 40 percent greater accuracy while causing less tissue damage. The researchers, from the University of Western Ontario and Canadian Surgical Technologies and Advanced Robotics (CSTAR), identified a problem with minimally invasive surgery (MIS) techniques and developed a robotic solution.

Oncologists use scanning technologies on patients before surgery to identify lesions, but a person's tissue can shift during surgery, making the positions identified by the pre-operative scans unreliable. Instead, surgeons use gentle pressure, or palpation, to confirm where the tumor is and to locate tumors not identified by the scans. However, with MIS this technique can be difficult because the surgeon must feel for tissue using long, slim instruments in a very small incision. The CSTAR researchers have developed a robot-controlled palpation device and tested it on cows' livers. In blind trials, the robot-controlled MIS sensing instruments placed 35 percent less pressure on the tissue, compared to human surgeons, and the robot's accuracy was between 59 percent and 90 percent greater, depending on the robot control method used for palpation. Unlike humans, the robot can apply consistent force in each step, and moves over the tissue systematically to create a complete map.

To develop a prototype robot that can be used in real MIS procedures, the researchers plan to incorporate a design upgrade to include a flexible rotating head and a remote center of motion, as well as an improved interface to help surgeons overcome any fears about using robots.

From EurekAlert
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