At Brunel University London in the UK, researchers have developed a remarkable surgical drill for drilling into the cochlea. The device is intended to help with placement of cochlear implants, devices that stimulate the cochlear nerve and return to people with profound hearing loss the ability to hear again.
The procedure is immensely delicate, as the drill tip can cause unwanted damage and dust from the bone can cause serious balance problems if it gets into the cochlea.
The trick to avoiding these complications is to drill through the bone, but to stop right at the endosteal membrane of the inner ear without penetrating it.
The new drill, which is able to sense tiny changes in pressure at its tip, relies on artificial intelligence algorithms to know exactly when the bit is exiting a hard bone. It is able to do this so well that the user can drill through the shell of a raw egg without breaking the membrane.
Check out this delightful video where you can see the magic of drilling through just the eggshell:
Study in journal Robotic Surgery: A hand-guided robotic drill for cochleostomy on human cadavers…