Joystick-Operated robot to help surgeons treat stroke remotely

Provide teleoperated endovascular treatment to patients during the critical time window

Joystick-Operated robot to help surgeons treat stroke remotely. Photo MIT

Brain stroke is a severe ailment that requires immediate action to take care of. Sometimes when a patient requires immediate surgery, chances occur when surgeons are not available. This causes a patient to undergo a critical stage. Surgery needs to be carried out with a professional and experienced surgeon in such a situation. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) engineers have developed a telerobotic system to remotely treat patients with stroke or aneurysms. The robot has become a helping hand for surgeons. Using a modified joystick, a surgeon in one hospital can safely control a robot hand to operate on a patient. It could save a patient’s life and preserve their brain function.

The movements of this robotic system are controlled through magnets. It is designed to guide the endovascular intervention (a procedure performed during an emergency to treat a stroke caused due to blood clot). This type of intervention requires the surgeon to manually guide a thin wire to the clot either to remote the blockage or to deliver the drugs in it.

Working on the system

Neurosurgeons who are located in one place can operate on patients who are located in another using a joystick and live images. It has a robotic arm with a magnet connected to its wrist that is intended for use in medical applications. With the help of a little knob on a mouse joystick, may control this magnet. They follow a tiny magnetic wire through arteries and veins by moving the arm according to changes in the magnetic orientation. The user may tilt the magnet by adjusting the joystick’s angle to observe the magnetic wire. A mouse’s buttons may control the forward and backward direction of the ire using a series of motorized linear motors.

According to Xuanhe Zhao, a professor of mechanical engineering and civil and environmental engineering at MIT, “We believe that rather transporting a patient from small places to large cities, they can visit their local hospitals. Nurses available there could set up this system. A neurosurgeon at a major medical center could watch live imaging of the patient and use a robotic arm to operate. This is our future dream”. 

The findings of Zhao and his team were published in Science Robotics in conjunction with MIT lead authors Yoonho Kim, Emily Genevriere, and Jaehun Choe, along with Robert Regenhardt, Pablo Harker, Adam Dmytriw, Justin Vranic, and Aman Patel at MGH, and Marcin Balicki of Philips Research North America.

Kim says, “This teleoperated treatment can benefit multiple patients to receive on-time therapy in a critical stage. At the same time, it can also help surgeons who have the chance to get exposed to X-Ray imaging radiations while performing vascular procedures in the same room.” 

The MIT team envisions its robotic system being installed at smaller hospitals and remotely guided by trained surgeons at larger medical centers. The method was shown using a “phantom,” a transparent model with vessels replicating intricate brain arteries. After just one hour of training, neurosurgeons could remotely operate the robot’s arm and direct a wire to specific areas on the model by navigating a network of vessels.

This research was partly supported by the National Science Foundation, Phillips Research of North America, and the National Institutes. 


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