Though robots were once the stuff of Star Wars and The Jetsons, commercially available systems have made robotic surgeries common in hospitals. Located just feet away from the surgeon, the systems are minimally invasive and offer surgeons better dexterity.
Department of Defense-funded researchers want to take that capability to the next level so surgeries can commence on battlefields with the surgeon's work being done by a robot that's miles away and connected by communication links.
"There is a large community that is envisioning a robot that is deployable in an armored vehicle, much closer to combat, where an expert surgeon can remotely work on the patient very quickly after an injury is sustained," said Dr. Blake Hannaford, a professor of electrical engineering and adjunct professor in bioengineering and mechanical engineering at the University of Washington. "The kind of focus, as I understand it, is stopping arterial bleeding that's not amenable to a tourniquet and stabilizing that so that a Soldier can be transported for regular care."
Hannaford and his team have created a surgical robot that works on a patient's abdomen. It has two arms, and a motorized carriage on the operating table lets the arms move anywhere on the table.
"It's very position-able to any part of the body," he said, adding that this may possibly allow the robot be used on arms and legs.
Hannaford's research endeavors were funded, in part, by a grant from the DoD's Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program. Congress created the program in 1999 to promote research in health issues the military faces. Since its inception through 2005, the program has spent almost $300 million to fund nearly 200 projects in a range of medical topics, including combat casualty care and technology and infectious disease research.
Along with Hannaford, Drs. Jacob Rosen, Mika Sinanan and Richard Satava are also co-investigators on the gra
Contact: Karen Fleming-Michael
US Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs