Miniature robots may soon replace surgeons, more so in space according to researchers.
The robots are about three inches in length and about a cm wide and have wheels on them. They can be slipped through a small incision into a cavity and surgeons in different locations can operate a remotely controlled computer.
The robots perform different functions - some have lights and camera on them while others have surgical instruments. Hence a set of them can be introduced inside the body for surgery.
At the Minimally Invasive and Computer-Assisted Surgery lab at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha Dr.Dmitry Oleynikov said at a Wednesday news conference, 'We think this is going to replace open surgery'
NASA will teach astronauts on how to use the robots by next years so that surgeries could one day be performed in space. The communication delay due to the distance of space from earth would mean surgeons would have tell astronauts what commands to give the robots. The surgeons on earth would be able to control the Robots themselves.
Other applications would be on battlefields, the robots would allow surgeons to operate on wounded soldiers remotely said Shane Farritor, a university engineering professor who helped design the robots.
Tests on animals have been completed and tests on humans in England will begin soon and the researchers plan to seek federal regulatory approval sometime next year.
The army of robots would provide access to areas in human body, movements and to maneuver that surgeon hands can never perform. Moreover several robots can be inserted through one incision hence the number of cuts would be reduced and would lead to faster recovery for patients.
Oleynikov said. 'We think with robot assist, we can do better than human hands,' and the views from the camera-carrying robots are better than the naked eye, as they send back color images that are magnified. He further added.
Currently a robot capable of doing biopsies is in the works and another is being designed that can be inserted into a person's stomach via the esophagus. The cost of the robots is about $200 each.
The ultimate goal is to use the tiny robots to enable surgeons to work without ever placing their hands in patients' bodies.
A.U.Jai Ganesh, MSc, MBA.,Researcher (Telemedicine and E-health),