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Lower Cost, Portable Surgical Robots Could Be Smooth Operators

Wed, 05/03/2006 - 6:04am
A mechanical engineer at Purdue University is teaming up with medical doctors in research aimed at developing less expensive, portable, and versatile surgical robots that could become more common in operating rooms. The researchers also are trying to incorporate tactile sensors into the robots to enable surgeons to feel tissue and better diagnose medical conditions.

"Robots don't perform the surgeries, but they are tools that give the surgeon more dexterity," said William Peine, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. "They let you get into confined spaces. You can eliminate hand tremor and you can be very precise and delicate. It's as if the tips of the instruments become your fingertips."

Current robots are complex and often require a large operating room and extra setup time. The researchers are trying to develop a new breed of surgical robot that is smaller and easier to use and can be set up in less time. This would give surgeons the option of deciding to use a robot on the fly if necessary, Peine said.

"Conventional surgical robots are the equivalent of a sophisticated racecar compared to your basic family sedan," he said. "For some surgeries, you need a complex robot, but for many surgeries, you do not. You wouldn't take an Indy racecar to the grocery store. What you really want is a hand tool that has robotic capability so that a surgeon could be in the middle of a procedure and be able to bring in the robot."



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