Surgical Techs Could Help Surgeons Operate on Kids

The same technology that powers robotic arms in space could be used to perform minor surgeries on children. Now, thanks to a project called KidsArm, mini-arms may be able to automate some tasks during pediatric surgery. Tests performed by the program show that the arms can help surgeons and surgical techs operate on tiny structures, like blood vessels, without damaging them.

The goal of the robotic arm is to help doctors perform certain procedures faster and with increased accuracy. In fact, some procedures would be performed autonomously. If all goes according to plan, eventually KidsArm will be able to perform three to five suture points independently.

The technology includes a vision-based system that works like robotic eyes. These eyes allow a small surgical arm to be guided to the spot it needs to reach. To figure out where to suture, KidsArm uses a stereo camera that creates a 3D point cloud of spots to guide the tool tip into the zone.

Currently, the product is in testing right now to evaluate its usefulness for anastomosis, a procedure that involves connecting vessels and similar parts of the body. The accuracy of the robotic arm’s camera pointing system is being tested, in addition to how well it puts in sutures. Other types of robotic arms are being used in surgeries, and one is under clinical testing for breast cancer diagnosis and surgery.