Straight out of Star Trek comes a potential new breakthrough in medical surgery – being able to operate inside a person without making an incision. By focusing ultrasound waves – the same used by OB/GYNs in prenatal care – in a way similar to focusing sunlight in magnifying glass, doctors may soon be able to disintegrate tissue several centimeters below the skin.
The new technique, called histotripsy (try saying that three times fast), causes cavitation – an effect that makes Sean Connery playing a Russian believable to American audiences. It also creates tiny bubbles that grow and collapse, releasing energy that liquefies the tissue at the desired site. While laser beams can be more powerful, what they cannot do is penetrate the skin without leaving burn marks.
(via SciTechDaily, image from youngdoo)
Good news for future space travelers: the world’s first demonstration of robotic surgery in a simulated micro-gravity environment takes place this week, in a collaborative effort between SRI International and the University of Cincinnati.
On four parabolic flights September 25 to 28 aboard a NASA C-9 aircraft (nicknamed the "Weightless Wonder"), a human surgeon will match suturing and similar skills with a robot surgeon tele-operated from thousands of miles away. The robot surgeon is equipped with special software that is designed to help it compensate for "errors in movement" (what you might call those pesky "oops!" moments that surgeons–and patients–just hate) due to turbulence or lack of gravity. The human surgeon is equipped with an airsickness bag.
The remote-surgery robot has already been tested on the Aquarius Underwater Laboratory, 60 feet under the water off the coast of Key Largo, where SRI demonstrated the robot could operate successfully even with a two-second latency, similar to that an Earth-based surgeon would experience if operating such a robot on the moon. Future beneficiaries of such tele-operated surgery could include not only astronauts and military casualties but anyone who needs attention by a surgeon when the hospital is a long way away.
Those who believe they’ve been abducted by aliens and subjected to medical testing, however, might wish to ask for a sedative or a blindfold before a knife-wielding robot is positioned above them.
(Photo from NASA via SRI International.)
[tags]robots, medicine, space travel, surgery[/tags]
When engineering and medicine meet, wonderful things can happen – for example, the collaborative project at the University of Washington that is researching ways of using ultrasound to treat punctured lungs without incisions or scalpels. Surgeons hope that the ability to deploy treatment before the patient arrives at hospital will lead to fewer deaths from this type of injury. [ColonyWorlds]
Pretty soon we won’t have to do anything for ourselves. Well, OK, that’s an exaggeration, but the list of tasks that robots can now perform as well as a human grows longer by the week. At the more mundane end of the scale (except in cultural terms, perhaps) Yaskawa Electric have fixed up one of their Motoman industrial robots to play taiko drums at a Japanese festival. Arguably more beneficial to the well-being of our species is the Sensei robotic arm at London’s St Mary’s Hospital, which is performing joystick-controlled heart surgery – with developers confident that a fully automated version is not far off.
Hot on the heels of our last newsflash for orthodontiphobes, another new device promises to make your next bout of oral engineering a less painful one. A Dutch inventor proposes replacing the traditional dental drill with a ‘plasma needle’, a device that despite being cold and painless to the touch will kill dead cells and cauterise the surroundings. Now there’s something to smile about.