Researchers at MIT have developed a telerobotic surgical system that allows a surgeon to remotely treat patients who are suffering a stroke or aneurysm. The system could be very useful, as achieving treatment as soon as possible after a stroke is crucial, but the endovascular surgeons who specialize in treating such patients may not be present at smaller clinics or remote hospitals. This system would allow them to provide treatment even if they are located in a different hospital. The robot uses a magnet to guide a wire through the blood vessels to the clot or aneurysm.
When someone suffers an ischemic stroke, time is of the essence, leading to the term “golden hour” as a description of the window in which treatment can be most effective in saving brain tissue. But what happens if a stroke occurs somewhere without nearby endovascular surgeons who are equipped to perform the procedures require to remove the clot? Not every hospital has the specialists required on their staff, with smaller or more remote hospitals being more likely to lack such personnel, meaning that a patient has to be transported to a larger hospital as soon as possible.
“We imagine, instead of transporting a patient from a rural area to a large city, they could go to a local hospital where nurses could set up this system,” said Xuanhe Zhao, one of the MIT researchers. “A neurosurgeon at a major medical center could watch live imaging of the patient and use the robot to operate in that golden hour. That’s our future dream.”
This issue has prompted these developers to come up with a telerobotic system that could allow such specialists to perform these procedures remotely, with the idea that the technology could be installed at smaller hospitals, allowing specialists to dial in when needed. The system consists of a robotic arm with a magnet at its end. The surgeon can move and twist the magnet to bend the magnetic tip of the guidewire, and the wire can be advanced or retracted using a motorized system, which is all under the control of the remote surgeon.
“The primary purpose of the magnetic guidewire is to get to the target location quickly and safely, so that standard devices like microcatheters can be used to deliver therapeutics,” said Yoonho Kim, another researcher involved in the study. “Our system is like a pathfinder.”
So far, the researchers have tested the system in a model of the cerebral vasculature, and were able to successfully guide the wire into place, and remove artificial clots.
Here’s a video with more about the new system:
Study in Science Robotics: Telerobotic neurovascular interventions with magnetic manipulation