The new invention was unveiled by the University of Utah’s researchers, who’ve just announced a new robotic drill, an automated one at that, that can do complicated surgeries like cranial surgery, and furthermore, it can finish it 50 times faster than it used to last. The surgery used to last around two hours when the regular, hand drill was used. With this technology, it could be done in only two, or two-and-a-half minutes.
The paper that the researchers have published in the journal called ‘Neurosurgical Focus” on Monday goes very much into detail when it comes to this specific surgery. The surgery is usually used when it comes to removing noncancerous tumors that are mostly found in patients that have experienced hearing loss. Researchers claim that the robot drill can perform a complex procedure like this, that usually requires years of experience and great skill, and the fact that this can be done is a “proof of principle”.
The drill works fast, makes safe, clean cuts, and also reduces the time the wound remains open, as well as time under anesthesia. Chance of infection is decreased, as well as the cost of the operation. Human error is also eliminated via this method as well, according to the research team, and William Couldwell, who’s been leading it. He described the invention as a time-saving device, more than anything.
Robotic assistance during the surgeries isn’t exactly a new thing since they’ve been known to help with jobs like replacing the hip, or putting screws into the spine, however, they’ve never before been used when it comes to skull-based surgeries.
The whole process is relatively simple, the team first does a CT scan to determine the location of nerves and major veins that are to be avoided, and then inserts the data into a specially developed software. The cutting path of the drill has to avoid many dangers and sensitive features, like the venous sinus, that’s used for draining the blood from the brain. The team can actually program safety barriers, and make a safe zone about every sensitive location, where the drill must never go. The drill can then easily go through the bone without the fear of damaging anything but the targeted location.
Of course, the surgeons will stand by during the operation and be ready to turn off the drill at any time, if needed. The drill also has safeguards that are there to ensure that it won’t get too close to the nerves or damage anything else.
The drill was already tested on plastic blocks, as well as cadaver skulls. There were several versions of the drill, that the researchers have created while trying to make the one that’s most safe and also easy to move. It’s estimated that the drill will go to market in one or two years, and it’ll cost around $100,000, or even less.
Of course, it’s quite costly, but it’ll save up to two hours per operation, and it can also be used during other surgical procedures, like complex openings of spine and skull, and also as an education tool. Couldwell himself has stated that “I would like to see it being used in major teaching hospitals because I think it would be a great teaching aid.”