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VISE affiliates to develop hand-held surgical robot for minimally invasive prostate surgery

Posted by on Tuesday, April 2, 2019 in News.

The Vanderbilt Institute for Surgery and Engineering (VISE) team of Robert Webster III PhD and Duke Herrell MD is developing a surgical robot for endoscopic transurethral prostatectomy.

The collaboration between a mechanical engineer (Webster) and a urologic surgeon (Herrell) resulted in an award of $2.1 million from a National Institutes of Health R01 grant to create a less invasive robotic system to enable prostate removal through the urethra and dexterous reconstructive suturing by surgeons.

The innovation of the project, “Robot-Enabled Natural Orifice Prostatectomy,” is the ability to deliver needle-sized robotic arms through a standard endoscope, a concept jointly invented by Webster and Herrell. The needle-sized arms themselves are made up of telescoping, curved elastic tubes that provide the surgeon with two small tentacle-like arms at the tip of the endoscope.

This is the first rigid endoscopic robotic system to provide two-handed dexterity at this size.

“Making complex endoscopy easier is a game-changer for multiple surgical and interventional specialties, and most importantly for patients,” said Herrell, a Professor of Urologic Surgery, Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering, and director of Minimally Invasive Urologic Surgery and Robotics at VUMC.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, with one in seven men suffering from it in their lifetime. Ninety thousand men undergo invasive prostate cancer surgery every year. The project aims to make the surgery much less invasive by introducing tiny surgical instruments through the natural opening provided by the urethra. If successful, this will eliminate the need to dissect through healthy tissues from the abdomen into the pelvic area, with less disruption to the the nerves that control continence and erectile function.

“The concentric tube idea lets us make our manipulators an order of magnitude smaller than the surgical robots doctors use today.  This along with accessing the prostate from a natural orifice will dramatically reduce surgical invasiveness, helping patients heal faster,” said Webster, the Richard A. Schroeder Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Vanderbilt.

The project, R01 EB026901, is a multi-PI project with Dr. Webster and Dr. Herrell co-leading, and involves collaboration between the Vanderbilt School of Engineering and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Department of Urology.  The project will take place in the Vanderbilt Institute for Surgery and Engineering’s new state-of-the-art facilities in Medical Center North.


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