An Open Source Robotic Surgeon Could Save Your Life

by Ostatic Staff - Mar. 07, 2012

Could the surgeon who saves your life be a robot? The answer to that could be yes, if the developers of the Raven II robotic surgeon have their way. Raven II comes with a surgical robot featuring two robotic arms, a camera for viewing the operational field, and a surgeon-interface system for remote operation of the robot. "The system is powerful and precise enough to support research on advanced robotic surgery techniques, including online telesurgery," say U.C. Santa Cruz researchers who helped develop it (shown here). The code for Raven II is open source, and this robot is only one of several open source robots poised to advance healthcare.

As Popular Mechanics notes:

"Robert Howe, a professor at Harvard’s biorobotics lab, wants to give [doctors] a robotic assist. In the lab, Howe and his team are testing a robot called Raven intended to help surgeons see and navigate around the heart, guiding their instruments to the right place to perform repairs. Their approach uses 3D ultrasound imaging to show internal organs in real time."

The problem with many surgical procedures is that human eyes don't necessarily have the precision required to target the exact tissues and anatomical locations that are necessary to repair. Raven II sees more precisely than a human, and can function as a potentially life-saving guide and assistant for surgeons.

Raven II is actually only one of seven open source robots that U.C. Santa Cruz and University of Washington researchers have developed, as noted here

"Robotics experts at UC Santa Cruz and the University of Washington (UW) have completed a set of seven advanced robotic surgery systems for use by major medical research laboratories throughout the United States. After a round of final tests, five of the systems will be shipped to medical robotics researchers at Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Nebraska, UC Berkeley, and UCLA, while the other two systems will remain at UC Santa Cruz and UW."

While it's not an open source robot, the Da Vinci surgical robot has made headlines for its ability to help doctors remove cancerous prostate glands. Robot-assisted radical prostatectomy (RARP), is actually the most common technique in America for treating localized prostate cancer.

Interested in more on open source robots, including their future in healthcare? Check out our previous reports