HKU, PolyU unveil first incision-free surgical robotic system

March 03, 2016 15:04
(From left) Law Wai-Lun, Yeung Chung-Kwong and Yung Kai-Leung unveil the surgical robotic system after testing it successfully (inset) on live pigs. Photos: HKU

Imagine undergoing an operation in which all the cutting is done inside your body by tiny robot arms, leaving your skin unblemished by surgical scars.

That may soon be possible as a result of work by researchers at the University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

They have unveiled the world’s first surgical robotic system that requires only one incision or even none, Apple Daily reported Thursday.

The Novel Surgical Robotic System (NSRS) was announced Wednesday after three successful clinical trials on live pigs between December and last month.

Existing surgical robots require multiple abdominal incisions.

NSRS, however, has fully internally motorized surgical arms that can enter the human body through a single, small incision, or even a natural orifice, for various abdominal or pelvic surgical operations.

HKU's Professor Yeung Chung-Kwong and PolyU's Professor Yung Kai-Leung said it is the first such robotic system in the world, paving the way for future non-invasive surgery.

Last year, 1,006 surgeries were performed using robotic arm systems in Hong Kong, up 10 percent from 2014.

All the operations were done using the Da Vinci Surgical System, the dominant surgical robotic system on the market.

That system costs between HK$20 million (US$2.57 million) and HK$40 million and suffers from many limitations, including the need for multiple incisions, lack of tactile feedback and the bulkiness of the machine itself.

While the Da Vinci Surgical System is not designed for robotic surgery through a natural orifice, the NSRS can be inserted through an orifice, such as the anus or vagina, to perform various surgical operations.

Another advantage of the NSRS is that it has a panoramic camera capable of capturing images of the entire abdominal cavity, helping to increase the accuracy of medical operations for surgeons.

Professor Law Wai-Lun of HKU said the NSRS will be further tested on cadavers before undergoing clinical testing in 2018.

The system is the result of a HK$25 million project funded by NISI (HK) Ltd., a company specializing in non-invasive surgical innovations, and supported by the Innovation and Technology Commission of the Hong Kong government.

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