(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- The day when computers actually start performing
surgery may soon be upon us.
A French team has developed a computerized 3D model that allows surgeons to use
robotics to operate on a beating heart. The robotic technology predicts the
movement of the heart as it beats, enabling the surgical tools to move in
concert with each beat. It means a surgeon can perform a procedure as if the
heart were stationary.
This development could be especially important for the millions of patients who
require less invasive surgical heart procedures, but for whom stopping the heart
causes unnecessary risk.
Rogério Richa, Philippe Poignet and Chao Liu from France's Montpellier
Laboratory of Informatics, Robotics, and Microelectronics developed a
three-dimensional computerized model that tracks the motion of the heart's
surface as it beats. The model also accounts for the movement of the patient's
chest wall during breathing. Known as the "thin-plate spline deformable model,"
this computerized approach allows a robotic arm to continually adjust to heart
and chest movements during surgery.
The effective isolation of the physical movements of the heart and lungs during
surgery is made more difficult by the heart's irregular shape and its tendency
to expand outward in all directions as it beats. The heart's irregular surface
also makes it more difficult to use visual tracking to accurately pinpoint
The new approach relies on a mathematical representation of the heart's surface
as it moves in three dimensions. Over the last 10 years, robotic arms have
become essential in many surgical procedures, including microsurgery and
operations that require extremely delicate movements. However, these machines
prevent the surgeons from using their sense of touch and coordination to adjust
for rapidly changing environments. This new computer-generated model makes it
possible for the surgeon to focus on suturing or cutting without having to
adjust for the moving surface. This technique has many potential applications,
including heart surgery, coronary bypass and many kinds of brain surgery.
To date, patients have gone without some of these procedures because the risk of
surgery outweighed the benefits. This new model will allow surgeons to perform
less invasive procedures that are not "life-or-death," but which do require a
high level of precision.
SOURCE: International Journal of Robotics Research, December 11, 2009