Preceyes performs world-first robotic ocular surgery
A world-first in robotic surgery has been successfully completed by a team at John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford; BBC News had exclusive access.
The team of surgeons used the ‘Preceyes’ surgical robot to operate within the human eye, removing a membrane from the back of the patient’s eye. The membrane was destroying the central vision of the patient, with only peripheral vision in the right eye.
The robot that executed the surgery, controlled by the team, was developed by a Dutch company out of Eindhoven University of Technology. The surgeon uses a touch-screen and joystick to manoeuvre a thin needle into the patient’s eye, while watching the process through a microscope.
The robot makes tiny movements in response to large movements from the surgeon, which eliminates any hand tremors on the part of the surgeon. If the surgeon releases their grip on the joystick, the robot stops moving.
While robotic surgery is now quite common, this is the first time a robot has been used to perform surgery on an eye.
The patient’s central vision in the affected eye has now been restored as a result of the robotic surgery.
Prof. Robert MacLaren from University of Oxford, who led the procedure, told the BBC: “Operating at the back of the eye needs great precision, and the challenge has been to get a robot system to do that through a tiny hole in the wall of the eye without causing damage as it moves around.”
Prof MacLaren said: “There is no doubt in my mind that we have just witnessed a vision of eye surgery in the future. We can certainly improve on current operations, but I hope the robot will allow us to do new more complex and delicate operations that are impossible with the human hand.”
The surgery is part of a trial of twelve patients undergoing surgical procedures, funded by the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre. Zizoz, a Dutch charity for patients with choroideremia, is providing further funding, as the Preceyes robot may be used to treat the condition.
Surgeons hope these trials will allow the robot to work on more complex eye surgery that is currently impossible with the human hand.