New robot for skull base surgery alleviates surgeon's workload

Drilling out a hole in the skull base requires great precision and often takes many hours, a demanding procedure for a surgeon. Researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) have developed a surgical robot to take over this task. With sub-millimeter precision, the robot can automatically and safely mill a cavity of the desired shape and dimensions. Jordan Bos received his PhD on 16 April for the robot he designed and built. The robot is expected to perform its first surgery within five years.

Each year, surgeons trepanate more than 100,000 people worldwide, for example to treat infections or cancer, or to place a cochlear implant. This is a delicate task, because they come across quite a few structures that they must avoid, such as motor and sensory nerves, and structures of the inner ear. In addition, bone filings and blood impede the view through the microscope during the procedure. The surgeon must therefore work with extreme concentration, often for hours, in an uncomfortable posture.

At the request of ENT doctor and skull base surgeon Dirk Kunst of the Radboud UMC in Nijmegen, Jordan Bos developed a robot to take over at least part of these operations. He first visited about 20 skull base operations to study these interventions, and then devised about 20 concepts. He created a detailed design of the best concept and built a prototype, which is now ready, and with which the first technical tests have already been performed.

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Victoria Krisman
Victoria Krisman is Interactive Media Specialist and Communications Manager for the Intelligent Community Forum.
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