Bioengineers Develop a Self-Driving Medical Robot to assist Heart Surgeons

Bioengineers at Boston Children's Hospital recently demonstrated the first medical robot, which is capable of travelling independently inside the body. The robot is compared to an autonomous car that can navigate to a particular location without any human interference. It is developed with an aim to help surgeons in complex heart surgeries.

For the demonstration, the research team used an animal model of cardiac valve repair. A programmed robotic catheter was inserted inside this animal model to fetch its path along the walls of an animal heart (swine). The robot successfully found its way along the walls of heart of the model without any guidance of the surgeon. Pierre Dupont, the Chief of Pediatric Cardiac Bioengineering and Senior Investigator at Boston Children's Hospital, stated that, this robot is the first medical invention, which is equivalent to a self-driving car.

The robot uses an optical touch sensor, which is developed in Dupont’s lab. The sensor uses preoperative X-rays and a layout of the cardiac structure to assist the robot. Additionally, it uses artificial intelligence (AI) and image-trained algorithms to find its way along the walls of the heart.

The surgical robot took multiple trials to successfully move toward the heart valve leaks. It was found that the robot roughly took the same amount of time an experienced surgeon would take.  According to Dupont, the robot is efficient enough to assist the surgeons in complex heart operations. With this invention, the surgeons will now be able to concentrate on other challenging aspects of the surgeries.

Dupont further added that one can relate this surgical robot with an analogy of a fighter plane and pilot. The fighter plane performs the basic tasks such as flying the plane, so that the pilot can pay attention to the complex tasks of the operation. This medical robot will eradicate the requirement for fluoroscopic imaging, which exposes patients to dangerous ionizing radiation.

Dupont and the research team expects the self-directed medical robot to build a collection of data that can be used to constantly improve their performance. The team compared the robot to the autonomous cars that report the data to Tesla, Inc.  The collected data will help to improve the algorithms that make the robot autonomous. Dupont stated that this data will not only level the playground but also raise it. With this surgical robot, every surgeon in the world will be operating at a level of skill and knowledge equivalent to the best in their field. 

New product launches have been a recent trend in the medical robots industry. According to Big market research, the medical robots market will experience significant growth by 2025.

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