Robot-Guided Brain Surgery Performed at German Hospital

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)
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)

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Ken E.
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But what's the alternative?
Ken E.   7/19/2012 10:12:42 AM
Squeamishness aside, I can see a huge advantage to sitting in an office with multiple 3d views, allowing for accurate placement planning.  Now, to find a Dr. who is also geeky enough to master the software.  Absent that, you can put Dr. and geek side by side at that stage. 

The alternative is depending on a surgeons skill in visualizing the path of the drill thru bone.  Good luck figuring out which Doctor is going to be best at this, on the day you are under the knife.  When it comes to spinal cords, you don't ever want to miss, which probably means doctors currently err on the side of caution.  As a natural consequence, they may not even try to place the screws as optimally as might be done with this.

Plus, it's pretty darn cool. 

Jack Rupert, PE
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Re: Gives me the willies!!
Jack Rupert, PE   7/19/2012 10:41:24 AM
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!

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Gives me the willies!!
Ann R. Thryft   7/19/2012 11:33:11 AM
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.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Gives me the willies!!
Ann R. Thryft   7/19/2012 11:42:27 AM
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?

Bob Hulme
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Many Advantages
Bob Hulme   7/19/2012 3:37:23 PM
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.

User Rank
Much more information is needed before I would trust my back!
britelite40   7/20/2012 12:21:32 PM
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.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Much more information is needed before I would trust my back!
Ann R. Thryft   7/20/2012 12:39:52 PM
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.

User Rank
Re: Much more information is needed before I would trust my back!
crob09   7/20/2012 2:03:26 PM

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.




User Rank
bobjengr   7/21/2012 1:11:01 PM
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.

Scott Orlosky
User Rank
Scott Orlosky   7/22/2012 8:06:01 PM
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.

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