Brain surgery for those suffering with severe epilepsy could soon be performed by robots through the cheek. The only way doctors can currently treat patients with uncontrollable epilepsy is through brain surgery, which involves isolating or removing the part of the brain that is responsible for seizures. The procedure is extremely invasive and dangerous, as it involves drilling deep into the skull. A team of Vanderbilt University engineers in the US were determined to develop a less intrusive method of surgery – and five years later they have successfully developed a robotic device capable of performing the procedure less invasively.
The device enters through the patient’s cheek, where it can proceed into the brain, avoiding the need to drill through the skull. The prototype was revealed by David Comber, lead designer of the device, in a live demonstration earlier this week at the Fluid Power Innovation and Research Conference in Nashville, US. The nifty device is a shape-memory alloy needle (a metal that ‘remembers’ its original shape) that is able to steer along the curved pathway from the cheek into the brain. When operating, the robotic platform steers the needle using compressed air, inserting it in tiny steps, allowing its position to be tracked by progressive MRI scans. The needle itself is 1.14 mm thick, and made of nickel-titanium, which allows it to operate inside the powerful magnetic field created by the MRI scanner. The researchers tested the needle in the lab and found it to have a very high precision for the required operation. Via Robots could soon perform brain surgery through your cheek.