Image Credits: NISI Press Release, 7 August 2018

Image Credits: NISI Press Release, 7 August 2018

Robotic arm is just what the doctor ordered!

According to a report published on 8 August 2018, Hong Kong’s PolyU is working with a Hong-Kong based start-up to develop a surgical technique that will enable abdominal and pelvic surgeries to be carried out with miniature robotic arms that will leave no scars.

The arm will enter a patient's body through a natural orifice.

This scheme is what NISI, a Hong Kong-based medical start-up, is working on in cooperation with Cambridge University, the University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

The start-up has undertaken the world's first such experiment on live animals and dead human bodies, and it will start clinical trials on humans in 2021.

According to a press release by the company, surgeons, and gynaecologists worldwide have dreamt of being able to perform abdominal and pelvic surgical procedures without the need to make abdominal incisions for decades.

However, available surgical robotic systems have many limitations, including the need for multiple incisions, an additional large incision for the removal of tissue, and lack of haptic (force sensation) feedback.

The robotic arms are installed with reversible joints, allowing them to bend backward and conduct surgery in the pelvic area.

Professor Chung-Kwong Yeung, Honorary Clinical Professor in Surgery at The University of Hong Kong (HKU), Chairman and Chief Technology Officer of NISI stated that the technology is a this is a long-time dream come true for any surgeon.

The achievement demonstrates the genuine possibility of making scarless and incisionless surgeries via natural orifices a reality.

This ground-breaking innovation should revolutionize future abdominal and pelvic surgeries and make non-invasive surgical procedures a commonplace reality. Patients worldwide will benefit from this new technology with much less surgical trauma and fewer wound complications.

The professor also said the miniature robotics technology is a huge breakthrough as it allows surgery to be done without cutting open any part of the body.

The chairman said that even in minimally invasive surgery, surgeons often need to make multiple incisions on the patient's body to insert machinery and remove unwanted tissues from openings.

He said conventional robotic systems face many limitations, including limitations in forward motions and a lack of force sensation, making them unsuitable for abdominal and pelvic surgeries.

The new technology enables miniature robotic arms to imitate the complex movements of a surgeon's arms, wrists, and fingers.

The arms can also work in eight dimensions, with high precision and flexibility to overcome the complicated environment in the pelvic area.

Unlike conventional arms with only one camera, the new arms are equipped with a dual camera system to provide panoramic and three-dimensional views to prevent injuries to organs.

The system also incorporates haptic feedback.

The chairman said the new technology can be applied in gynaecological surgeries and procedures to the bladder and other organs in the pelvic region.

When arms work in forward anchorage, they can be used in surgeries to the liver, stomach, and gallbladder, he said.

He added that as such surgeries do not involve any incisions, blood loss is reduced and wound complications avoided.

Surgery using robotic arms could just be a third or a quarter of costs of conventional procedures.

Last month, the research team successfully completed eight surgeries on pigs, using the highly sophisticated robotic arm.

Since NISI started in 2012, it has spent HK$200 million on the robotics system, including HK$40 million from the Innovation and Technology Fund.

The Secretary for Innovation and Technology Nicholas Yang Wei-hsiung said the robotics system is a major step forward in biomedical technology that would bring huge benefits to patients.

This new surgical technique and technology could revolutionise the way surgery takes places, reducing the need for incisions to be made.

Additionally, the robotic arm presents a version of surgery that is cleaner and safer than it already is.

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