The future for many complicated areas of neurosurgery may be improved with the unveiling of PathFinder the world’s first intelligent robot for image-guided surgery, developed by UK-based Armstrong Healthcare Limited.
Modern medical scanners enable surgeons to identify areas in the brain where a surgical intervention is needed. The PathFinder robot provides surgeons with a way of guiding instruments very precisely to the chosen site.
This means that even tiny structures deep inside the brain can be accessed reliably, with minimal damage to surrounding tissue.
Examples of ways in which Pathfinder might be used in the future include the treatment of brain tumours, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. New techniques of stem cell replacement therapy are also ideally suited to precision placement by the PathFinder robot.
The surgeon instructs the PathFinder robot by marking a target and an approach path on the patient’s scan.
PathFinder carries a camera that automatically matches the scanner image to the position of the patient’s head on the operating table. The surgeon makes a tiny hole at the entry point in the skull, and PathFinder then gently advances an instrument through the hole to the chosen target.
PathFinder has been under development for several years by Armstrong, which has produced a number of prototype systems for specialist centres.
The production version is about to start a programme of clinical trials at the Queens Medical Centre Nottingham. Following extensive testing and regulatory approval, it will shortly be used to help surgeons there in live operations.
‘PathFinder is the first robot with the intelligence to map-read a patient’s skull from a scanner image,’ commented Patrick Finlay, Managing Director of Armstrong. ‘It is designed to provide the neurosurgeon with a precision positioning device which is safe and simple to use in increasingly complex procedures.’