Today’s arthroscopic instruments that are used to perform minimally invasive procedures on hips, knees, and other parts of the body, are rigid devices. They also tend to be one-size-fits-all solutions that surgeons have to use on patients with varied anatomies.
Now, a team at the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision are working on being able to make custom robotic instruments that align with a given patient’s anatomy. The idea is that a knee, for example, would be imaged using an MRI machine and the resulting scan used to define where the robot can and cannot go. Targets are set and a path is defined for the robotic instrument to navigate.
At this point, a computer is used to simulate how various so-called “SnakeBots” can move through the digital 3D maze. These generate trajectories that can be scored and the best candidates chosen from a very large selection of these modular robots. Once the best is selected, it can be quickly created ahead of the procedure using a 3D printer. The SnakeBots are manipulated using the Raven 2 surgical robotic platform developed at the University of Washington and University of California, Santa Cruz.
The Australian researchers believe that their approach mimics how evolution works by selecting for certain beneficial traits. Potentially, multiple robots could be used simultaneously in future iterations of this work.