Image-guided robot called a surgical 'milestone'

The NeuroArm, a surgical robot that provides magnetic resonance images of the brain was unveiled in Calgary, where researchers called it a "milestone in medical technology." The technology works in conjunction with real-time MRI to provide surgeons with unprecedented detail and the control to manipulate tools at a microscopic scale for operations ranging from repairs of blood vessels to removal of a brain tumour. A surgeon controls the robot using levers at a computer workstation in a room next to the surgery. The robot's two mechanical hands mimic the movements of the surgeon with incredible precision, while sensors and microphones recreate the sights, sounds and touch of surgery, said Dr. Garnette Sutherland, a professor of neurosurgery at the University of Calgary who led the team that designed the device.

Microsurgical techniques that evolved in 1960s have pushed surgeons to the limits of their precision, accuracy, dexterity and stamina, Sutherland said, with the world's best surgeons working at tolerances within three millimetres. The robotic technology makes it possible for surgeons to work accurately within the width of a hair, said philanthropist Doc Seaman, whose family provided $2 million for the planning of NeuroArm. The arm was designed and built in collaboration with engineers at MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, known for creating Canadarm and Canadarm2 for NASA. Funding for the $27 million device also came Western Economic Diversification Canada, Canada Foundation for Innovation, the National Research Council of Canada, Alberta Advanced Education and Technology, Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research and other philanthropists.

The NeuroArm is now moving out of development, and the first human surgery testing with the device is expected in two the three months. There is already interest in adapting the technology for a wider variety of surgeries.

News source: CBC News

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