"Robots don't perform the surgeries, but they are tools that give the surgeon more dexterity," said William Peine, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. "They let you get into confined spaces. You can eliminate hand tremor, and you can be very precise and delicate. It's as if the tips of the instruments become your fingertips."

Current robots are complex and often require a large operating room and extra setup time. The researchers are trying to develop a new breed of surgical robot that is smaller and easier to use and can be set up in less time. This would give surgeons the option of deciding to use a robot on the fly if necessary, Peine said.

"Conventional surgical robots are the equivalent of a sophisticated racecar compared to your basic family sedan," he said. "For some surgeries, you need a complex robot, but for many surgeries you do not. You wouldn't take an Indy racecar to the grocery store. What you really want is a hand tool that has robotic capability so that a surgeon could be in the middle of a procedure and be able to bring in the robot."

In addition to developing less expensive, more portable robotics, the researchers also want to create more sophisticated systems for a variety of surgical procedures.

"There is a huge amount of research and development that is going to happen in the future. The most complicated future roles will involve tactile feedback and image-guided surgery where you feed in information you have from CT scanners or ultrasounds or magnetic resonance imaging and the robot will accurately go to that particular part of the body and do whatever needs to be done”, said Dr. Chandru Sundaram, a surgeon and associate professor at the IU School of Medicine's Department of Urology.

MEDICA.de; Source: Purdue University