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Wednesday, March 2, 2016, 15:30

PolyU unveils revolutionary robot for less invasive surgery

By Wang Yuke / chinadailyasia.com
PolyU unveils revolutionary robot for less invasive surgery
A Hong Kong Polytechnic University professor demostrates the world's first internally motorised minimally invasive surgical robotic system for single incision or natural orifice (incision less) robotic surgery during a press conference, March 2, 2016. (Parker Zheng / China Daily)

HONG KONG - A precision medical device developed at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) will take a leading role in advancing the science of minimally invasive surgery, its developers predict.

This novel robotic system will perform surgical procedures using a single, small incision — allowing flexible arms to enter a patient’s body to carry out repair work. The robotic arms are also capable of entering through natural body orifices, requiring no incision at all.

Designers say the medical robot will reduce post-operative trauma — normal in patients after surgical procedures.

The device resembles something from the pop cultural Transformers toy and film series, as the system has three or more robotic arms. These can be dismantled prior to surgery, then reassembled inside the patient’s body, and maneuvered through the abdominal cavity.

Parts are tiny and flexible enough to penetrate an abdominal cavity through an incision measuring only 1 to 3 cm in width. Usually, a skin incision of less than 6 cm is considered minimally invasive.

Once inside the body, the reassembled appendages can be expanded and adapted to the specific needs of the surgery.

The novel system has advantages over other minimally invasive devices. It provides three-dimensional imagery of the body’s interior and a measure of the actual force exerted by the instruments. This creates a tactile sensation for the surgeon performing the operation.

"It is comparable to handling eggs. Too much force would crush the shell, while with too little force we are unable to take away what needs to be removed. Blood vessels and tissues are also fragile, requiring that surgeons handle them warily,” said Professor Yung Kai-leung of PolyU, who led the project.

Yung says three-dimensional perspectives, offering improvements over existing two-dimensional devices, notably improve precision in minimally invasive surgery.

The prototype of the innovative robot has been trial-tested successfully on animals. The mechanism needs further refinement before being used in operations on people, said Professor Law Wai-lun, director of the Surgical Skills Centre at the University of Hong Kong, who participated in the project.

Law says those who developed the device will try to lower the cost of the instrument so more patients can benefit from it.

jenny@chinadailyhk.com

 
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