Neurosurgeons at HSK Hospital in Wiesbaden, Germany have used Mazor Robotics' Renaissance spine surgery system to conduct the first robot-guided brain surgery procedures. HSK was one of the first medical centers in the world to begin using robotic technology for spine surgeries. Mazor did not reveal any details about its brain surgery application, or what kind of brain surgery procedures the hospital performed.
Mazor's Renaissance system and its predecessor, SpineAssist, have been used in several thousand spine surgeries, including procedures for scoliosis and other complex spinal deformities, osteotomies, and biopsies. The company says that its technology is also applicable to brain surgery for uses such as biopsies, placements of shunts, and placement of neurostimulation electrodes, such as those used for deep brain stimulation.
The first brain surgery assisted by robots has been performed at HSK Hospital in Wiesbaden, Germany using Mazor Robotics' Renaissance robotic guidance system for spine surgery. (Source: Mazor Robotics)
About 25,000 brain biopsies are performed in the US every year. About half of surgeons who currently use Mazor's Renaissance and SpineAssist robots for spinal surgeries are neurosurgeons, who often also perform brain surgery. Mazor expects that its spine surgery technology will bring similar benefits to brain surgery as it does to spine surgery: increased patient comfort, improved surgical accuracy, and a less invasive approach. Robotic spine surgery is considered to be especially useful where there are line-of-sight challenges, such as with minimally invasive surgeries or complex anatomy.
The Renaissance system, which has an accuracy of 1mm, functions primarily as a guide for surgical tools and implants. It consists of a workstation, software, a guidance unit, and several mounting options. There are four basic steps to its operation for spine surgery. First, surgeons conduct preoperative planning by uploading the patient's CT scan. Using this, they create a preoperative blueprint of the ideal surgery for that particular patient in a virtual 3D environment. This is usually done on a PC. The robot is then rigidly attached to the patient's spine via a mounting platform. This assures the maximum possible accuracy during surgery.
The 3D surgical blueprint is synchronized with the mounting system using two fluoroscopic images of a fiducial array, somewhat similar to the fiducial arrays used for the same purpose in printing and machine vision. Once that's completed, the operation can begin. (Watch a video showing how it works below.)
The Renaissance system has been cleared in the US and Europe for spinal surgery. Now, regulatory clearance for Mazor's brain surgery application is pending in both regions. When completed, Mazor expects to make the brain application available as an add-on to the Renaissance system in early 2013.
bobjengr, glad you liked it. It gives me the willies, too. However, it's also true that most of us have not had a chance to examine what happens in this kind of surgery before, unless we had to learn about it for our own upcoming date with a surgeon, or perhaps a loved one's. If we had, that would have acquainted us with many of the same gory details. So I suspect that much of the squeamishness commenters have expressed has more to do with the surgery itself than whether it's a robot or a human manipulating the surgical tools.
Incredible stuff. These are surgeon-guided and robot aided machines if I understand it correctly (hand tremors get filtered out) - making it both smart and accurate. This would have been science fiction 25 years ago.
Ann--This technology blows me away and proves that I'm 168 pounds of rompin, stompin coward. I definitely feel the pre-operative process is state-of-the-art and very useful even if the robotic process is not used and dependent upon (hopefully) a very capable surgeon. I can also see that 1 MM is absolutely required because no errors are permissible. The tough part--securing the "bridge" to the patient's spine. This is where I feel the greatest errors, if any, can be made. Great post.
This technology is very interesting; 1mm accuracy is pretty good! Considering most 3D printers only offer twice that resolution.
I think it is just a matter of time before robots will be performing the harder surgeries to remove risk. Humans make errors, where machines don't, especially if the computerized machine is monitored by a human.
Compare it to a CNC lathe using a good quality CAD-CAM software, not only can you find faults before you actually perform the procedure, most machines using the proper software won't let the operator proceed if any problems arise.
Not just that a machine like this will do the same job faster and with more accuracy.
Another thing worth comparing this to would be a torch, yup... a torch. Look at the way Abasing torches where made in the past, no arrestors, no safety, just fill a pot with fuel and light the end with the hope nothing blows up. Today's torches can be used by anyone without having to worry about getting killed, that all said, we are always evolving and making things safer.
Regardless this technology will help people.
So how much longer before we no longer need people to make things or fix things? I think this world is going to be a very different place in 60 years.
You're not alone in wishing there was more information about the Mazor Robotics surgical system, britelite. As with the Da Vinci surgical robot, the proof will be in the pudding (a perhaps unfortunate analogy considering the topic), meaning, successful surgery rates over time.
Before I would trust my back to the robot, I would want to know a lot more about the whats and the hows of the robot. And I think that is precisely the area where much more information is required. I would want to understand the process of robotics surgery offered by the center and the relationship between my back, the surgeon, the robot, and the geek! as someone mentioned here. I think key to proliferenace of these robots and underlying technics is far more dissemination of information compared with what we see.
I read about a robotic system for radio therapry of lung cancer. I think it is called the RoboKnife. Given that when we breath the position of the tumor in the lungs changes, a special room is equipped with sensors to fire the x-ray at the right moment. Furthermore, there are many angles where firing the x-ray is OK as it causes minimal damage to surrounding tissue and others where firing is prohibited because it can cause damage to spinal cord or other sensitive tissues. Working out the plausible angles was a geeks job that would be done before the administration of the therapy.
I think I would trust that system if I needed to undergo radio therapy. Information is what companies have to provide to receive trust. This means all the different sorts of data and hows and what that people have referred to here. What is disappointing about the Mazer system is that it comes with no information, also on their website. This makes the robot a claim rather than a tool and I would not trust a claim.
Hi, I can see that there will be many advantages for using robotic surgery.
1 There must be instances where the surgeon's hands are simple too big to manipulate instruments in a tiny space. Perhaps they just limit vision.
2 As a teaching tool it is easier to include students simply by adding a few monitors.
3 Now this is a big one... Surely the costs of surgery can be reduced by improving efficiency and speeding up surgical procedures. Surgeons can adopt a more comfortable posture and of course perform more operations per day. recovery times can be reduced through less invasive procedures too.
There are plenty of upsides that make these machines look well worth their undoubtedly high cost.
Warren, I'm also becoming really curious about the reliability stats for these surgical robots and how one a) engineers them and b) tests them for what must be ridiculously low error rates, like p = 0.0001, or something (to borrow from the world of statistical significance measurement). Does anyone know?
Chuck, I had the same response to those words. Worse, I watched the video. Yecchh. However, most of us have not had to think about these details before, unless we've had spine surgery. I suspect the whole surgical process is equally gruesome whether it's being done directly or indirectly with robotic help.
I'm going to have to disagree with you Jennifer. After seeing somebody go through brain surgery, I think this would be a big help. First of all, I would imagine that you could use smaller instruments, and hence the hole they have to cut in your skull could be minimized. (It's not necessarily a drilled hole, but rather a 6" diameter flap that could be cut out. Next, the movements can be finer than a human would be able to do, meaning that they would be able to leave more "good" brain tissue intact, reducing likely damage. Finally, while a computer can crash, a surgeon can get the hiccups!