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World first trial of robotic eye surgery a success

Currently, surgeons perform this procedure without robots, but it is so delicate even the pulsing of blood through the hands is enough to affect the accuracy of the cut, and possibly cause small amounts of haorrhaging and scarring. However, a trial of the groundbreaking surgical syst found the use of robots could minimise this risk.The trial involved 12 mbrane-roval surgical procedures in a UK hospital, with six performed in the traditional manner and the other half using the robotic process. Five of the patients in the traditional surgery group experienced micro-haorrages and two had a retinal touch – which means there was an increased risk of retinal tear and detachment. Conversely, the robotic group resulted in only two micro-haorrhages and one retinal touch.{{quote-A:R-W:470-I:2-Q: The ability to operate under the retina safely will represent a huge advance -WHO:Robert Maclaren, Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford}}The robot, controlled by a surgeon, functions like a mechanical hand and is equipped with seven independent motors capable of movent as precise as one micron. It can operate in and out of the eye through a single hole less than one millimetre in diameter.Study lead Dr Robert MacLaren, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Oxford, designed the robot with ophthalmologist Dr Marc de Smet from the Netherlands.During the recent meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), MacLaren said the technique was “a vision of eye surgery in the future.” He added the challenge was to devise a way to increase the accuracy and avoid causing damage to the retina during surgery. “The robotic technology is very exciting, and the ability to operate under the retina safely will represent a huge advance,” MacLaren said in an interview with Live Science.Meanwhile, his colleague de Smet said they were in the early stages of what he described as a new, powerful technology.“The syst can provide high precision [for] 10 microns in all three primary directions, which is about 10 times more precise than what a surgeon can do,” he said.This is especially important in procedures like the ones performed in the trial, where surgeons have to rove a mbrane that is only 10 microns thick – about one-tenth the width of a human hair – without damaging the retina. Complicating the procedure is the fact that the eye of the anaesthetised patient jiggles with each heartbeat.MacLaren said he hopes to next use the robotic syst to place a fine needle under the retina and inject fluid through it, which could aid in retinal gene therapy.