The University of Nebraska Medical Center and UNL have received $2.8 million from the U.S. Army to continue work on robotic telesurgery research. Coupled with the $1.4 million award the group received last year, it brings total current funding to $4.2 million.
The funds awarded from the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity are being used to produce and test a miniaturized, remotely controlled surgical robot. The robots could enable a surgeon in a remote battlefield area to perform complex, lifesaving surgery with the aid of an expert surgeon potentially thousands of miles away.
Dmitry Oleynikov, director of the Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery and the Center for Advanced Surgical Technology at UNMC, is the principal investigator of the grant. Shane Farritor, UNL professor of mechanical and materials engineering, is co-principal investigator of the grant.
Researchers say the mini-robots have the capability to provide basic diagnosis and triage of internal injuries in war zones or in a remote area where medical facilities aren’t immediately available. The robot can be inserted into the patient via a tiny incision, through the mouth or another natural orifice and be controlled by a surgeon in a remote location. The device would transmit live video images so surgeons could identify the trauma and serve as a “remote first responder.”
“As the military disperses surgical facilities so patients receive care where they are stationed, it’s important to maintain and improve outcomes by making the most sophisticated diagnostic and interventional care as widely available as possible,” Oleynikov said. “Our work can be a force multiplier for expert surgical capability in areas where it’s not possible to deploy limited medical personnel and resources.”
Farritor said the collaboration between UNL and UNMC makes the project special and provides the opportunity to make a real impact.
“Besides the direct benefit to the army, our robots can help in civilian clinical applications such as colon resection and other areas of general surgery,” he said.