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Operating on the eye, especially for things like retina repairs is one of the riskiest surgeries doctors perform - One where even a slight tremble of the hand could cost the patient his/her eyesight. Even experienced ophthalmologists who perform the surgery do it for only a limited number of years stopping, when they start to age. Now, a researcher has come up with a smart solution - A robotic assistant that does all the delicate work without ever flinching!
The smart eye robot is the brainchild of Dutch researcher Thijs Meenink, a student at Netherlands' University of Technology who invented the device as part of his PhD thesis. It comprises of two parts - 'Master' and 'Slave'.
The ophthalmologist controls the 'Master' using two joysticks and goes through all the motions, as if he is performing the surgery. In reality, it is the 'Slave' that is doing the work inside the eye, by mimicking the exact movements. The only difference between the two actions is that the surgeon is working on a bigger scale, which means that when his hand moves the master by 1cm, the slave's robotic arm moves by only 1mm- Allowing for better precision and therefore, greater success.
Each 'slave' robotic arm which has a diameter of 0.5 millimeter is capable of deftly using the tiny needle-like instruments that include forceps, surgical scissors and drains and more importantly, able to swap one for the other, within a few seconds. This is very crucial in speeding up the duration of the operation given that some surgeries could require up to 40 instrument changes. Also, unlike a human, the robot re-enters the eye through one precise point during the entire surgery, thus preventing damage to other parts of the eye.
Also cool is the fact that instead of performing the surgery in an uncomfortably hunched position, the surgeon will be able to operate while sitting, allowing for better concentration and less chance of fatigue. If all goes well, the Mr. Meenink is hoping to make this amazing eye robot available commercially in the very near future - We sure hope he succeeds!
Resources: Endgadget.com, tue.nl.com