The field of needlescopic surgery could be advanced following the development of a tiny mechanical wrist that is less than two mm thick.
A team from Vanderbilt University's Medical Engineering and Discovery Laboratory have created a surgical robot with steerable needles equipped with the new wrists, introducing a degree of dexterity that needlescopic tools have previously lacked.
“A new type of mechanical wrist has been developed by US engineers to provide additional dexterity and flexibility in needlescopic surgery.“
The wrists are created using a tiny nitinol tube with small slots cut into it to decrease its rigidity, allowing it to bend up to 90 degrees when a small wire running inside the tube and attached at the tip is pulled.
By the end of the summer, the team hopes to have completed the control software and the interface that allows the surgeons to operate the device, with the hope of making it available to surgeons in four to five years.
With this extra flexibility, the needles can potentially be used in places that have previously been beyond their reach, such as the nose, throat, ears and brain.
Duke Herrell, professor of urological surgery at Vanderbilt University, said: "There are a myriad of potential applications … This would allow us to do surgeries that at present require much larger incisions and may even enable us to perform operations that are not feasible at present."See all the latest jobs in Service Engineering