A team of British surgeons have successfully performed the world's first robotic operation inside the eye to restore vision. The surgery was carried out at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
The surgeons removed a membrane growing on the surface of the retina from the patient's right eye. The membrane was one hundredth of a millimeter.
‘The Preceyes surgical robot could revolutionize the way eye surgeries are treated. The device achieved three-dimensional precision required to operate inside the human eye.’
The patient, Rev Bill Beaver (70), had lost most of the vision in the eye because the membrane was covering the retina. The surgery was made possible by the Preceyes surgical robot, which has been developed in Holland.
The procedure was necessary because the patient had a membrane growing on the surface of his retina, which had contracted and pulled it into an uneven shape. The membrane is about 100th of a millimeter thick and needed to be dissected off the retina without damaging it.
"Operating at the back of the eye needs great precision and the challenge has been to get a robot system to do that through a tiny hole in the wall of the eye without causing damage as it moves around," said Prof Robert MacLaren, from Oxford University, who carried out the procedure.
The surgeons used a joystick to control the robot while monitoring its progress through the operating microscope.
"Most robots in the theater are big, with big engineering, whereas this is tiny - everything had to be shrunk down. Normally, when we do this operation by hand, we touch the retina, and there is some hemorrhage. But when we used the robot, the membrane was lifted cleanly away."
"The degeneration in my vision was very scary," Mr Beaver said. "I was fearful I would lose my sight entirely - so for this intervention to take place so effortlessly is a real godsend."