Robot performs keyhole surgery on pig without human help for first time

26 January 2022, 19:04

The Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot
The Star robot has performed keyhole surgery without human help (Johns Hopkins University/PA). Picture: PA

Scientists said the machine excelled at the procedure which required a high level of repetitive motion and precision.

A robot has performed keyhole surgery on a pig without the guiding hand of a human for the first time, a new study reports.

Researchers say the procedure is a significant step in robotics towards fully automated operations on humans.

The Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (Star) carried out the delicate keyhole – laparoscopic – surgery, which involved connecting two ends of an intestine, in four animals.

According to the study, the robot excelled at the procedure which requires a high level of precision and repetitive movements.

Senior author, Dr Axel Krieger from Johns Hopkins University, said the procedure marked the first time a robot had performed a laparoscopic surgery without human help.

Connecting two ends of an intestine is arguably the most challenging step in gastrointestinal surgery, requiring a surgeon to apply stitches  – or sutures – with high accuracy and consistency, experts say.

The slightest hand tremor or misplaced stitch can result in a leak that could have catastrophic complications for the patient.

Dr Krieger, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Johns Hopkins’ Whiting School of Engineering, said: “Our findings show that we can automate one of the most intricate and delicate tasks in surgery: the reconnection of two ends of an intestine.

“The Star performed the procedure in four animals and it produced significantly better results than humans performing the same procedure.”

He helped create the robot, a vision-guided system designed specifically to suture soft tissue, with colleagues at the Children’s National Hospital in Washington DC and Jin Kang.

Dr Krieger is a Johns Hopkins professor of electrical and computer engineering.

The current version improves a 2016 model that repaired a pig’s intestines, but required a large incision to access the intestine and more guidance from humans.

Expert say the new features allow for improved surgical precision, including specialised suturing tools and imaging systems that provide more accurate visualisations of the surgical field.

It is especially hard for robots to perform soft-tissue surgery because of how unpredictable it is, forcing them to be able to adapt quickly to handle unexpected obstacles.

The study sets out a novel control system in the Star that can adjust the surgical plan in real time, just as a human surgeon would.

Dr Krieger said: “What makes the Star special is that it is the first robotic system to plan, adapt, and execute a surgical plan in soft tissue with minimal human intervention.”

He added: “Robotic anastomosis (surgically joining two structures) is one way to ensure that surgical tasks that require high precision and repeatability can be performed with more accuracy and precision in every patient independent of surgeon skill.

“We hypothesise that this will result in a democratised surgical approach to patient care with more predictable and consistent patient outcomes.”

The findings are published in Science Robotics.

By Press Association

More Technology News

See more More Technology News

Nadine Dorries

Nadine Dorries uses TikTok rap to explain Online Safety Bill

Apple iPhones

Accessibility tools a ‘core value’ for Apple, says director

Social media

Facebook owner Meta updates privacy policy

The Queen with her corgis

‘PJ the corgi’ Platinum Jubilee emoji unveiled on royal Twitter account

Tesla and SpaceX chief executive officer Elon Musk

Shares jump as Elon Musk revises Twitter financing plan

A child using a laptop

New digital platform launched to boost online safety lessons for children

Glastonbury Festival 2019

EE expects Glastonbury data usage to double at this year’s festival

Ford geofencing technology

Ford trials geofencing tech to automatically control vehicle speed

The Duomo in Milan on Google Street View

Google Street View’s ‘time travel’ feature comes to smartphones

Facebook

Facebook and Instagram to reveal more on how ads target users

Mark Zuckerberg

Washington sues Mark Zuckerberg over Cambridge Analytica privacy breach

Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro smartphones

More powerful cameras key to smartphone success, says Google manager

An underwater drone on a ship deck

Underwater drone carries out first-ever offshore wind farm inspection

Child uses laptop

Create watchdog to protect children online, charity says

Technology Stock

Dark web ‘scramble’ over Buffalo attack amid fears of post-pandemic attacks

Technology stock

Twitter users told to be wary of scam messages about verified accounts