Cambridge Consultants showed off its prototype of a miniaturized robot designed for cataract surgery last week at its annual Innovation Day event.
The system, Axsis, is one of the smallest known robots for surgical use, according to the firm, featuring instruments of just 1.8mm in diameter.
Surgical robots are often bulky and aren’t necessarily designed to maneuver the delicate tissues found in the human eye, the director of Cambridge Consultants’ surgical business, Simon Karger, told The Robot Report.
“We threw out the rule book for surgical robotics design and we took a fresh approach,” he said.
When the team at Cambridge Consultants undertook the Axsis project, they narrowed their focus on cataract surgery and began talking directly with doctors to identify their needs. Cataract surgery is the most commonly performed eye procedure in the United States, with millions of surgeries being conducted each year. Applying robotic surgery to the procedure could bring a degree of “precision, speed and safety,” according to Karger.
“This level of innovation in surgical robotics has the potential to significantly enhance medical treatments and procedures for surgeons and patients alike,” Chris Wagner, head of advanced surgical systems at Cambridge Consultants, added in prepared remarks. “Take cataract surgery, for example. It is performed by hand, under a microscope, with tools that are about two millimeters in diameter. It’s the world’s most common surgery, yet there are still critical complications that can result due to the small size and delicate nature of the eye, and the experience and skill of the surgeon. This is where the traditional benefits of robotics – such as motion scaling and minimally invasive access – can help. If we can build robots at this size scale, surgeons of all levels of experience can benefit, improving procedure outcomes and allowing more facilities to offer cataract procedures.”
The firm also reported that Axsis could be used in other minimally-invasive procedures that necessitate a level of precision. For example, Cambridge Consultants suggested that the system could be used to place certain neurostimulation implants.