Researchers from Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), University of the West of England, UK, have led the development of a ground-breaking robotic surgery system that enables surgeons to put joint fractures back together using a minimally invasive approach.
This robotic surgery system was supported by EPSRC investment and is the first robot-assisted system designed to deal with joint fractures.
Professor Sanja Dogramadzi from the BRL worked alongside Professor Roger Atkins, an orthopaedic surgeon at University Hospital Bristol, UK, and MATOrtho®, a UK leading medical device company. Dogramadzi received funding from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to refine the system.
How will this technology change surgical procedures?
According to the EPSRC, broken bones that involve joints cause considerable disability and substantial NHS costs. To work properly and avoid painful arthritis, the pieces of the joint must be put back together perfectly.
Currently, surgeons do this by making a large incision to open up the area around the joint to see the broken parts of the bone. These wounds cause pain, scarring, infection risk and long hospital stays.
The Bristol team’s surgical system combines:
- State-of-the-art 3D imaging;
- Pattern recognition; and
CT scans of the bones are ‘interpreted’ by a mathematical algorithm which works out the exact displacement and rotation needed for each fragment to be put back together in exactly the right place.
The solution to this 3D puzzle is the starting point for the minimally invasive surgical robotic system that repositions the fragments under the surgeon’s supervision.
Dogramadzi said: “This collaboration is all about taking the latest advances in technology and using them in a real application which will have direct benefits to patients.
“By working closely with surgeons, we have been able to design a workable system which will function within the constraints of real surgery and meet the needs of patients. The robots we are developing will enhance the work of surgeons by carrying out complex tasks suited to robots, while the surgeon stays in control and makes the decisions essential to the success of the surgery.
“Ultimately, the system allows for earlier and less onerous surgery; reliable, perfect fragment re-alignment; improved patient outcomes; faster rehabilitation; reduced hospital stays; earlier return to work; fewer complications; arthritis avoidance; and significantly reduced NHS costs,” she concluded.