When you go under the knife, you want the hand holding it to be accurate and steady. Small slip-ups can result in unnecessary scarring, and larger goofs can cause irreparable damage. Paige Nickason, a 21-year-old Canadian woman with an egg-shaped brain tumor, found out first hand how robotic surgery assistants are allowing surgeons to perform the most delicate operations with swift precision.
Your average flesh-and-bone surgeon can keep his hands steady in increments of a few millimeters, but guiding a pair of robotic hands during a surgery enables an operating window microns-wide — 50 microns, in the case of the NeuroArm robotic surgeons used for Nickason's operation.
The successful removal of her tumor represents a first for an image-guided robotic assistant in this kind of operation, and has patients at the University of Calgary lining up for related treatments.
The NeuroArm team leader at the University of Calgary, Dr. Garnette Sutherland, believes that robots are not yet able to match the fluid dexterity a human commands, though he does acknowledge that the technology is always improving and will only get better.