Medical Devices and Healthcare IT

Robotic Drill Improves Safety of Cochlear Implant Prorcedures

29 March 2018

Have you heard? Patients needing ear implants could have safer surgery with a hand-held robotic drill sensitive enough to drill through an eggshell and stop before reaching the membrane.

Bioengineers at Brunel University, U.K., tested a new robotic hand drill with a smart sensor that stops The hand-guided surgical robot drill system. Source: Brunel UniversityThe hand-guided surgical robot drill system. Source: Brunel Universityautomatically before it reaches the delicate endosteal membrane in the inner ear.

Right now, surgeons use a robotic drill attached to a mechanical arm for cochleostomies, but hand-held robotic drills leave a smaller footprint and rely more on the surgeon’s dexterity. The slower pace of robotic drilling also reduces the amount of contact and vibration, which translates into lower risk for cochlear damage. An additional benefit is that these systems are quicker to set up and learn to use, cutting training costs for surgeons.

Instead of following a pre-planned drill path calculated from a CT image of the patient’s inner ear, the new lightweight tool runs on a unique smart sensing algorithm. With micron-level accuracy, its smart sensing system uses feedback about the force and torque between the drill and body part to automatically decide when to stop.

The researchers successfully used the new smart-sensing device to perform a cochleostomy on human cadavers. After practicing on an egg, the team performed the operation three times, keeping the delicate endosteal membrane intact.

The research is published Robotic Surgery: Research and Reviews.

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