Interesting research out of Duke University utilizes real time 3D ultrasound to drastically increase the accuracy of surgical robots.
Duke University engineers have shown that a three-dimensional ultrasound scanner they developed can successfully guide a surgical robot.
The scanner could find application in various medical settings, according to the researchers. They said the scanner ultimately might enable surgeries to be performed without surgeons, a capability that could prove valuable in space stations or other remote locations.
“It’s the first time, to our knowledge, that anyone has used the information in a 3-D ultrasound scan to actually guide a robot,” said Stephen Smith, professor of biomedical engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering.
Smith and Eric Pua, a Pratt graduate student who participated in the research, reported the findings in the cover article of the November 2006 issue of the journal IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control.
The scanner could be coupled to the surgeon-operated robots that are being increasingly used for performing minimally invasive “laparoscopic” surgeries on the heart or other organs, Smith said. In such operations, surgeons work through tiny “keyhole” incisions, and the new scanner would provide surgeons a more realistic view of the organ they are working on.
“All the technology is available,” Smith said. “We just need to make the connections between the ultrasound scanner and the robots now in use by surgeons. There are no technological barriers to doing that right away.”
Among other applications, surgeons could use the 3-D scanner to spot potential tumors in real time during biopsy procedures, making a diagnosis of cancer harder to miss, the engineers said. Physicians today must rely on still images, such as CT scans, of a patients’ organs captured prior to biopsy to locate lesions suspected to be cancer.
As artificial intelligence technology improves in the coming decades, the scanner might even be able to guide surgical robots without the help of a surgeon, the researchers said.
The 3-D ultrasound probe has yet to be tested in human patients, Smith said, but he added that his team believes the technology is ready for clinical trials.
“Two-dimensional laparoscopic ultrasound has seen increased use as a surgical aide in general, gynecological and urological procedures,” Pua added. “Our results show that the application of real-time 3-D ultrasound to these surgical procedures may increase information available to the surgeon and serve as an additional guidance tool.”
Is it just me, or does it seem like Duke researchers are pawns in a plot to replace real surgeons with robots? The only flaw in their plan is that robots will never be able to have a GOD complex (i.e., Isaac Asimov’s Laws of Robotics)
Read more here . . .
Check out the abstract…