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La aguja Sr.-dirigida robótica realiza cirugía del cerebro a través de mejilla

por Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | October 17, 2014
Courtesy of David Comber
of Vanderbilt University
Engineers from Vanderbilt University have developed a surgical robot prototype that can perform minimally-invasive surgery through a patient's cheek to treat epilepsy. Currently, the only method used to remove the area of the brain that causes the seizures is to perform invasive surgery through the skull.

Eric Barth, leader of the project and associate professor of mechanical engineering at the university, came up with the idea to put a robot inside of an MR scanner. At the same time, Robert Webster, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the university, created steerable surgical needles.

"The idea for this came about when Eric and I were talking in the hallway one day and we figured that his expertise in pneumatics was perfect for the MRI environment and could be combined with the steerable needles I'd been working on," Webster said in a statement.
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The final prototype is a shape-memory needle that can be guided down a curving path by a robotic platform that runs inside the magnetic field generated by an MR scanner. The needle is 1.14 millimeters in diameter and constructed with an MR-compatible nickel-titanium alloy.

The robotic platform moves the needle about a millimeter at a time so that the surgeon can keep track of its location using MR scans. After testing it, the team found that the system's accuracy is over 1.18 millimeters, which is adequate for that type of procedure.

While neuroscientists already use this type of procedure that goes through the patient's cheek to implant electrodes in the brain in order to assess brain activity and determine where the epileptic seizures start, this is the first use of that method to perform surgery on the region that causes the seizures.

"To have a system with a curved needle and unlimited access would make surgeries minimally invasive," Dr. Joseph Neimat, associate professor of neurological surgery at the university, said in a statement. "We could do a dramatic surgery with nothing more than a needle stick to the cheek."

In order to make the system affordable, the team made sure much of it can be constructed using a 3-D printer. To do that, they collaborated with two engineers at the Milwaukee School of Engineering who have expertise in applications for additive manufacturing.

The next step in the system's development is testing it on cadavers. The team predicts it will be used in the clinical setting within the next 10 years.

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