March 26, 2024

Surgical robot specializes in head, neck tumor resection

Editor's Note

A team of Johns Hopkins researchers has designed a robot capable of performing the most complex, delicate procedures—including head and neck tumor resection—with accuracy greater than many human surgeons.

As reported by the institution on March 18, ASTR: the Autonomous System for Tumor Resection is an autonomous, dual-arm, vision-guided robotic system capable of handling margins as small as 5 mm—“about the size of an eraser at the end of a pencil”—to preserve healthy tissue.

One prove-out of ASTR’s capabilities involved porcine tongue tissue, from which the robot removed a tumor and exactly 5 mm of healthy tissue via vacuum grasping and cutting without requiring supervisors to stop the procedure.

The system is based on technology developed for a previous system, the Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR), which made headlines for autonomous laparoscopic connections for connecting intestine ends.

The team's research for ASTR appeared in Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Robotic and Automation Letters. Further research is planned into pairing ASTR with precision imaging, which could aid in the dissection required to access tumors in kidneys and other internal organs.

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