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Saturday, October 29, 2005

Robot doctor to the rescue


Meet Dr Robot: about the size of a lipstick case, it's able to drive around inside your body and serve as the eyes or hands of a surgeon who could be thousands of miles away.

University of Nebraska researchers have developed the tiny machines, which they say could allow doctors to remotely conduct surgeries on the battlefield or even in space.

"We think this is going to replace open surgery," Dr Dmitry Oleynikov said on Wednesday. Oleynikov is a specialist in minimally invasive and computer-assisted surgery at the University of Nebraska Medical Centre.

The tiny, wheeled robots, which are about 7.6 centimetres tall, can be slipped into small incisions and computer-controlled by surgeons in different locations.

Some are equipped with cameras and lights and can send back images to surgeons. Others have surgical tools allowing them to make incisions, deliver medicine and perform other tasks.

Oleynikov said the robots allow surgeons to operate with more precision, and to see more clearly, than they can with laparoscopic techniques, in which doctors use tools attached to long tubes to conduct minimally invasive surgeries.

Robotic surgical systems already in use in the US use robotic arms that enter the body through small incisions and perform delicate work.

The University of Nebraska researchers say their robots are easier to manoeuvre inside the body, so they may need fewer incisions to work.

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