Object: To enhance the surgeon's dexterity and maneuverability in the deep surgical field, the authors developed a master-slave microsurgical robotic system. This concept and the results of preliminary experiments are reported in this paper.
Methods: The system has a master control unit, which conveys motion commands in six degrees of freedom (X, Y, and Z directions; rotation; tip flexion; and grasping) to two arms. The slave manipulator has a hanging base with an additional six degrees of freedom; it holds a motorized operating unit with two manipulators (5 mm in diameter, 18 cm in length). The accuracy of the prototype in both shallow and deep surgical fields was compared with routine freehand microsurgery. Closure of a partial arteriotomy and complete end-to-end anastomosis of the carotid artery (CA) in the deep operative field were performed in 20 Wistar rats. Three routine surgical procedures were also performed in cadavers. The accuracy of pointing with the nondominant hand in the deep surgical field was significantly improved through the use of robotics. The authors successfully closed the partial arteriotomy and completely anastomosed the rat CAs in the deep surgical field. The time needed for stitching was significantly shortened over the course of the first 10 rat experiments. The robotic instruments also moved satisfactorily in cadavers, but the manipulators still need to be smaller to fit into the narrow intracranial space.
Conclusions: Computer-controlled surgical manipulation will be an important tool for neurosurgery, and preliminary experiments involving this robotic system demonstrate its promising maneuverability.