Engineers from Vanderbilt University in the US have developed a robot to facilitate some brain operations. This new operation technique will help treating patients with severe epilepsy. Indeed, some types of epilepsy may require an intervention on the hippocampus. This brain region, which is located at the bottom of the brain, plays an important role in memory and spatial navigation.
This research group has developed a robotic device that pokes through the cheek and enters the brain from underneath which avoids drilling through the skull.
Researchers designed a long 1.14 mm needle in nickel-titanium that operates like a “mechanical pencil”, consisting of concentric tubes that allow the tip to follow a curved path into the brain.
The robotic platform, using compressed air, advances the needle segments a millimeter at a time. With this movement, the needle moves with a precision of 1.18 mm. This allows the surgeon to monitor the position of the needle by taking successive MRI scans.
The engineers have designed the system so much of it can be made with 3D printing in order to keep manufacturing prices low.
The prototype was presented at the “Fluid Power Innovation and Research Conference” in Nashville (Tennessee, USA, October 2014) and will now be tested on cadavers. The product should be available over the next decade.