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Surgical robots work under MRI.
April 17, 2007 7:02 PM   Subscribe

New surgical robots are not only capable of working more precisely than human hands, but they have no metal or electrical parts, so will work under MRI machines on tumors that would otherwise be invisible. The NeuroArm will set you back $27 million, but may confer more karma than that trip to space.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium (25 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
WOW
posted by delmoi at 7:20 PM on April 17, 2007


Hey, no posting the sole news story to interrupt the hockey game on CBC tonight.

Honestly, the country's national network pre-empts news for hockey. Sheesh.

But the robot is pretty damn cool.
posted by GuyZero at 7:28 PM on April 17, 2007


It's not quite nanomedicine but very cool none the less. I only wish the price tag wasn't so high.

"The surgery I had was state-of-the-art technology, which was GPS positioning if you believe it," said Durfy.

Can someone in the know explain what she means by this?
posted by saraswati at 7:29 PM on April 17, 2007


If only I had 27 million dollars. And a tumor.
posted by Citizen Premier at 7:32 PM on April 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


And that right there does two things.
1) Ruins my hopes of being a surgeon
2) Displays exactly why humans will beat up robots for stealing their jobs, creating a robot v human war which we can not win.

Nice job, assholes.
posted by KingoftheWhales at 7:40 PM on April 17, 2007


Can someone in the know explain what she means by this?

It means she completely misunderstood what her doctor told her. GPS would be about as useful in surgery as a chainsaw.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:51 PM on April 17, 2007


"The surgery I had was state-of-the-art technology, which was GPS positioning if you believe it," said Durfy.

GPS, MRI, what's the difference? The patients should be happy as long as they operate within 3 meters of their brains. [1]

[1] or further away depending on atmospheric conditions and satellite clock drift
posted by martinrebas at 7:56 PM on April 17, 2007 [4 favorites]


Neuro arms might replace surgeons, but only with the people skilled in both medecine and programming for the gazillion procedures they will create.
posted by Fupped Duck at 7:59 PM on April 17, 2007


If it becomes fully automated, there'd be no more tired surgeon able only to put in so many hours in surgery before becoming tired.
Round the clock surgery could *potentially* drive down the cost of procedures. (If the Lords of Insurance deem the cost reduction to be desirable)
posted by Fupped Duck at 8:05 PM on April 17, 2007


"The surgery I had was state-of-the-art technology, which was GPS positioning if you believe it," said Durfy.

This may be what she means. GPS-like, really.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:21 PM on April 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


When I was in undergrad back in the early 90s I had two freidns in grad school working on this kind of thing. Good to see that it's finally being applied. They always said it was going to be amazing.
posted by fshgrl at 8:58 PM on April 17, 2007


"GPS would be about as useful in surgery as a chainsaw."

That depends on how you look at it.

Using a GPS to place the scapel along the body would probably be off by about ten to twenty feet, give or take. This would mean odds are a doctor would be unable to make an incision at all. Whereas, a chainsaw would definitely allow the doctor to make an incision. Granted, some major arteries and relatively important organs might accidently get in the way, but surgery via GPS wouldn't actually be surgery at all.

Perhaps a better choice of words might have been "GPS would be for surgery like standing in Newark while playing darts in Boston." ...Actually that wouldn't work either.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:10 PM on April 17, 2007


A totally metal-less robot is really cool.

MRI magnets can be pretty strong.


Differential GPS can be pretty accurate--even down to inches.

But a surgeon who's inches off is scary.
posted by eye of newt at 9:46 PM on April 17, 2007


One thing I'm curious about - metal-less motors? How can you drive electromechanical movement without a conductor (i.e. metal)?
posted by TheNewWazoo at 9:50 PM on April 17, 2007


I did a couple of weeks with these guys in Calgary during med school and got to hear a bit about the robot. They have an intraoperative MRI here, which is a really cool thing that has nothing to do with the robot per se. The robot is designed to work inside the MRI magnet (no metal parts in the field). The servos are solid state and involve pairs of charged ceramic plates which slide upon one another and are situated well outside of the magnetic field - the force is transduced to the end of the instrument (inside the magnet) via mechanical means.

I think the 'GPS' system the patient is referring to is the BrainLab, or frameless stereotaxis setup, which is a way of mapping MRI or CT scans taken *before* the surgery onto the patient's head in the operating room. It's a line-of-sight triangulation thing where you point a wand at the patient's head and it shows you what should be underneath. Problem is that when stuff starts swelling or bleeding the tissue shifts and suddenly your imaging isn't accurate anymore. It's basically obsolete if you have an MRI in the room and can re-scan as needed. I suppose in principle it is like a GPS, except that instead of satellites surrounding Earth it's a bunch of little sticky dots stuck on the outside of your head.

Anyways, to put it in perspective, they already had all the MRI and BrainLab stuff, only thing new is the robot itself, which is a cool toy but won't be replacing manual surgery anytime soon. I'm not sure if they actually intend to market the device or just to sit on some lucrative patents.
posted by biochemicle at 10:19 PM on April 17, 2007


TheNewWazoo : The "motors" in the second robot are driven by compressed air, and communication is via fiber optics.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:54 PM on April 17, 2007


I suppose in principle it is like a GPS, except that instead of satellites surrounding Earth it's a bunch of little sticky dots stuck on the outside of your head.

That's how my friend's doctor explained it to him. I think his exact words were, "It's GPS for the brain".
posted by watsondog at 12:06 AM on April 18, 2007


WOW and millions of people are still dying of tuberculosis and malaria, or maybe that is AIDS, or maybe just starving to death or ..or...

it's so great and so indecent

.
posted by zouhair at 12:48 AM on April 18, 2007


Couldn't you also read it that $27M was the development cost, not necessarily the price to buy one. No?
posted by The Monkey at 4:43 AM on April 18, 2007


Just don't try and bring the anesthesia cart in too.
posted by dmd at 5:58 AM on April 18, 2007


wow.
posted by nickyskye at 8:16 AM on April 18, 2007


How the hell you gonna get a fifty-foot robot in an MRI machine?

Oh. Sorry. Wrong post.
posted by mmrtnt at 12:21 PM on April 18, 2007


GPS would be about as useful in surgery as a chainsaw.

Hey, you go to surgery with the tools you got.

Next question.
posted by mmrtnt at 12:24 PM on April 18, 2007


The "motors" in the second robot are driven by compressed air, and communication is via fiber optics.

Oh great. The first thing I thought of was the sound of airtools in a tire shop.

RRRRRRRRRRT RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRT!!!
posted by mmrtnt at 12:28 PM on April 18, 2007


Displays exactly why humans will beat up robots for stealing their jobs, creating a robot v human war which we can not win.

We'll just need more engineers.
posted by voltairemodern at 5:03 PM on April 18, 2007


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