Researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the Children's National Health System have developed the Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR), a robot surgeon they say can adjust to the subtle movement and deformation of soft tissue to execute precise and consistent suturing.
The robot was tested on a procedure called anastomosis, which joins two tubular structures such as blood vessels.
Robotic soft tissue surgery could provide substantial benefits through improved safety from the reduction of human errors and increased efficiency due to procedure time reduction, according to the researchers. However, the surgery could present a challenge because it can be difficult to adjust to the soft tissue's malleability during suturing.
STAR features a three-dimensional imaging system and a near-infrared sensor to spot fluorescent markers along the edges of the tissue to keep the robotic suture needle on track.
STAR operates under the surgeon's supervision, but without hands-on guidance.
The STAR robotic sutures were compared with the work of five surgeons in completing open surgery, laparoscopic surgery, and robot-assisted surgery. "No significant differences in erroneous needle placement were noted among all surgical techniques, suggesting that STAR was as dexterous as expert surgeons in needle placement," the researchers say.
From Johns Hopkins University
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