Successfully performed the world’s first Robotic operation
British surgeons have successfully performed the world’s first robotic operation inside the eye, potentially revolutioning the way such conditions are treated.
Surgeons have performed a revolutionary eye operation on a 70-year-old priest – thanks to the help of a robot .
The robot performed very good work inside William Beaver’s eye after his vision had become so distorted, he said it felt like “looking in a hall of mirrors at a fairground”.
“We can certainly improve on current operations, but I hope the robot will allow us to do new more complex and delicate operations that are impossible with the human hand.”The procedure was carried out at John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford.
Prof Robert MacLaren from University of Oxford, who led the procedure, told me: “Operating at the back of the eye needs great precision, and the challenge has been to get a robot system to do that through a tiny hole in the wall of the eye without causing damage as it moves around.
On completing the operation, Professor Robert MacLaren said: “There is no doubt in my mind that we have just witnessed a vision of eye surgery in the future.
“Current technology with laser scanners and microscopes allows us to monitor retinal diseases at the microscopic level, but the things we see are beyond the physiological limit of what the human hand can operate on.
“With a robotic system, we open up a whole new chapter of eye operations that currently cannot be performed.” The result is that Rev Beaver’s central vision in his right eye has been restored.A gas bubble in the eye means he is currently short sighted, but normal distance vision will return in the coming months.
Patient Father William Beaver, 70, an associate priest at St Mary the Virgin church in Oxford , said: “The degeneration in my vision was very scary and I was fearful I would lose my sight entirely – so for this intervention to take place so effortlessly is a real godsend.
“During the procedure, Professor MacLaren used a joystick and touchscreen to guide a needle inside Mr Beaver’s eye. Twelve patients will undergo surgical procedures using the robot, in a trial funded by the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre. The robot should allow surgeons to inject cells under the retina over a period of 10 minutes, something which would be impossible with the human hand.
The Dutch company which developed the robot believes that it could eventually be used outside the operating theatre.
In the first part of the trial, the robot is used to peel membranes off the delicate retina without damaging it. If this part is successful, as has been the case so far, the second phase of the trial will assess how the robot can place a fine needle under the retina and inject fluid through it.
Experts said this will lead to use of the robot in retinal gene therapy, a new treatment for blindness which is currently being trialled in a number of centres around the world.