Removing tumors from within the inner ear is a very delicate matter. The procedure typically requires clinicians to remove the entire mastoid bone.
According to a ream of German researchers, in the future, all surgeons will need to do is cut a tunnel of 5 mm in diameter through the bone using a miniature robot named NiLiBoRo.
The system is capable of adjusting its path while drilling through bone to steer around sensitive tissue such as blood vessels and nerves.
Most of the times, this procedure leads to the removal of the entire bone. The hole created during the procedure is later filled in with fatty tissue taken from the abdomen.
In the future this operation will be performed in a less invasive fashion, requiring just a small hole measuring 5 mm in diameter through which the tumor can be cut out from the inner ear.
The technique that makes this possible goes by the name of NiLiBoRo, a German acronym which stands for "Non-linear Drilling Robot".
The system is being developed by researchers in the Mannheim Project Group for Automation in Medicine and Biotechnology, part of the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology and Automation IPA, in cooperation with the Technical University of Darmstadt, the University of Aachen, and the Düsseldorf University Clinic.