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Medicine Technology

Surgical Robot Removes Calgary Woman's Brain Tumor 107

Posted by timothy
from the and-yes-it-had-permission-to-do-so dept.
Raver32 points out an article in the Victoria Times Colonist about an interesting advance in robotic surgery: "Calgary doctors have made surgical history, using a robot to remove a brain tumor from a 21-year-old woman. Doctors used remote controls and an imaging screen, similar to a video game, to guide the two-armed robot through Paige Nickason's brain during the nine-hour surgery Monday. Surgical instruments acting as the hands of the robot — called NeuroArm — provided surgeons with the tools needed to successfully remove the egg-shaped tumor."
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Surgical Robot Removes Calgary Woman's Brain Tumor

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 18, 2008 @03:04AM (#23451106)
    Let's just say the zombie brain surgeon didn't work out as well.
  • More Info. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Overkill Nbuta (1035654) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @03:12AM (#23451122)
    You can find some more info on this at.
    http://www.ucalgary.ca/news/may2008/neuroArm [ucalgary.ca]
    I think it will be interesting if a doctor can have less fatigue and sit in a chair and do operations more quickly and more precisely with this.

    I understand that there are some operations where you would want the doctor to be on site to help with complications. But some of them like removing a brain tumor where its a procedure that you just need to cut something out it might be able to help the limited supply of doctors in the world be better utilized.
    • Re:More Info. (Score:4, Informative)

      by LordVader717 (888547) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @03:28AM (#23451192)
      They've got a website [neuroarm.org] for the Neuroarm complete with video clip and pics.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 18, 2008 @03:45AM (#23451264)

      But some of them like removing a brain tumor where its a procedure that you just need to cut something out...
      Yeah, it's not brain surgery. I mean.. it's not rocket science.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I can't believe someone referring to BRAIN SURGERY as "a procedure that you just need to cut something out." And also stating that there are "some operations where you would want the doctor to be one site to help with complications" but acting like that would NOT be the case with a brain surgery!!! I just had brain surgery in March. It was VERY complicated and could have been fatal. There is NO WAY I would have allowed a robot to perform it. If that was the only case, I would expect the SAME amount of
      • by KGIII (973947)

        I've been trying to sign up, also. But after three different times, I will have to have my password mailed to me, so this is unfortunately being posted as "Anonymous Coward."
        So that didn't work then? *grins* (I couldn't resist.) Welcome to /. now go check your spam filters/boxes.
    • More to the point... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jd (1658) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Sunday May 18, 2008 @04:54AM (#23451494) Homepage Journal
      ...there may be some categories of "inoperable" brain tumours that are inoperable because humans have too low a level of precision. Such tumours would be removable by such a method. There have been many advances in tele-surgery since early work in the early 1990s (Surgeons in Russia operated on patients in America, for example) but this is definitely a lot further forward than might have been expected from the pioneering efforts.
      • by nospam007 (722110)
        There have been many advances in tele-surgery since early work in the early 1990s (Surgeons in Russia operated on patients in America, for example)...

        It's to allow surgeons to operate from home, to save gas and scrubs and they also don't need to wash their hands.
      • by ceoyoyo (59147)
        That's one of the ideas. When I was involved with the project the robot was also designed to be MRI compatible, so it could do image guided biopsies in the bore of the magnet. Calgary is also the site of the first 1.5T mobile intraoperative MRI (developed by this same surgeon). It can also scale down a surgeon's movements and cancel out any tremor.

        They've also proposed to develop molecular probes that the robot can use to chemically feel out which tissue is likely to be tumor and which is not.
    • Re:More Info. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by August_zero (654282) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @07:12AM (#23451994)
      I have done a surgical rotation at a facility that uses a DaVinci robot to conduct some of its gynecological/urological procedures. The surgeon still has to work at it, and for those not familiar with the system, the surgeries can take 3 times longer and are more arduous than doing it the old fashioned way. In the hands of a practiced surgeon though, it's really a sight to behold in action, almost like a giant metal spider clipping and cutting.
    • Also keep in mind that the doctor can simulate the surgery using the patient's own data and use that simulation to program the robot to perform the operation ahead of time. If the program fails the simulation, the doctor can tweak the program until it performs exactly as he or she wants. At that point, the doctor's responsibility during the actual operation is to monitor the program to make sure it's performing exactly as it did during the simulation and that nothing goes wrong. Even if something does go
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)
      You're right about less fatigue, but not more quickly. The robot lets the surgeon scale down his movements to operate more finely though, so there is a payoff.
    • I like the picture they use: "In fact, it is rocket science."

      Hence I guess it's trivial technology. We already know how to fly to Mars... Trival. Really!

      I thought building it would be more like Astrophysics.

  • I wonder if they tell you before you go in that they won't be doing it by hand themselves...

    At the end of the day, hopefully this means cheap healthcare.
    • by peipas (809350) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @03:24AM (#23451172)
      I dig. If I accidentally bought a bottle of wine whose grapes were mechanically squeezed I'd still rather assume a half dozen feet did the job.
      • by sodul (833177) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @06:38AM (#23451840) Homepage
        I remember a video on the french news (maybe 15 years ago) about wine making: there was a guy *totally* naked (it's french TV it was not censored) jumping into the grapes to squeeze them. I don't know if the idea was to not get his underwear stained or if the 'all natural' method.

        Needless to say I'm a beer drinker (belgian beers).
    • I would prefer safer procedures with a higher probability of success rather than cheap. Then again i don't pay for health care.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Yes, you do. In taxes.

        Remember, there is no such thing as "Free health care" or "Free education". Thinking like that leads to arguments like "Well, it's not that good but I can't complain as it's free.". You are paying for it every time you pay taxes.

        This naturally assuming you aren't circumventing your taxes some way or are posting from prison where you don't pay taxes but get health care or something like that. ;)
    • Believe so, at least that's the most economical interpretation of

      "It was scary at first," said Nickason of the idea of being operated on by a robot.

      "But I really trust my doctors and know they would keep me safe."

      from the article.
    • At the end of the day, hopefully this means cheap healthcare.

      Do you mean "have the effect of lowering healthcare costs in Canada", or "the use of robots will make the concept of universal healthcare appealing to citizens of the United States and South Africa"?

      Sorry, couldn't resist. ;-)
  • I'd like to see QA on that software.
  • Oblig. (Score:4, Funny)

    by esrobinson (1028500) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @03:31AM (#23451196)
    I, for one, welcome our new brain surgeon robot overlords.
    • by santiam (1279644)
      I didn't see the complete title at first. I read: " Surgical Robot Removes Calgary Woman's Brain." I couldn't figure out why she would want that to happen.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by mikael (484)
        When my step-father was in hospital from a amoebic infection of the blood stream, he once called home, still a bit woozy and told us, "The doctors have removed my brain, they told me I don't need it any more". The doctor went on the line and explained he meant drain.
    • Re:Oblig. (Score:5, Funny)

      by pcgabe (712924) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @05:03AM (#23451524) Homepage Journal
      No! No! We must fight them! Brain surgeon robot overlords? Are you MAD? They could... they could re-program our VERY MINDS!

      This is TOO FAR! We =must= take a stand! This far, no further!

      In fact, I'm going to go give these overlords a piece of my mind in person! BRB
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Colonist, now theres an interesting line of work....
  • It's Not a Robot (Score:5, Informative)

    by juancnuno (946732) * <juancnuno@gmail.com> on Sunday May 18, 2008 @03:41AM (#23451242)
    This is great and all, but I feel the term "robot" is overly misused. To me, robot implies a computerized autonomy. If the doctor controlled the thing, then to me that's no robot.
    • ... It's a Waldo (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Fallen Andy (795676) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @03:54AM (#23451286)
      Annoys me as well, but many "industrial robots" are really remote manipulators. I always remember the first one I saw at Rolls Royce Aerospace (Bristol UK) (early 80's). So darn dangerous it had it's own room . Needed it too - they were cutting turbine blades. One oops, and it's hypersonic ninja dices and slices time... See here [wikipedia.org]

      (I just noticed the Waldo story reference has something which prefigures Feynmann's "Plenty of Room at the Bottom" . Wonder if he got that idea from Heinlein?

      Andy

    • by Aranykai (1053846) <slgonser@NOSpam.gmail.com> on Sunday May 18, 2008 @04:30AM (#23451404)
      And while on the subject, why do they insist on likening anything with a display and controls to playing a video game? Its not an Atari, its a complex medical machine.
      • by JAppi (853260)
        by the same logic you could say that photoshop and Microsoft Office were video games.
      • by ceoyoyo (59147)
        Actually, they did at least one study where they looked at video gamer performance using Neuroarm (the poster is hanging just out the door in the hallway).

        I can't remember the details offhand, but IIRC they tested gamers, experienced surgeons and trainees on a simulated surgery. The gamers did very well.
      • why do they insist on likening anything with a display and controls to playing a video game?

        Perhaps because playing video games has been found [msn.com] to [shortnews.com] help [engadget.com] surgeons [wired.com] perform surgery better.

    • by Enleth (947766)
      Well, that depends on the level of autonomy this device has. Maybe it's just a manipulator that turns the movements of a joystick directly into the movements of a scalpel or something, but it could as well receive orders like "cut this piece of tissue" and proceed by itself with exact, self-calculated movements of the blade. I'd say this counts as a form of a robot.
      • by ceoyoyo (59147)
        It has that capability, but it's not being used that way yet. The plan was to be able to record movements and replay them. Like "suture that vessel."
    • by SeaFox (739806)

      If the doctor controlled the thing, then to me that's no robot.

      Yeah! it's a space-age station for Oncology! And the doctor shoots first.
    • In other news, Typewriter Writes Novel
  • They were pretty sketchy about this issue of whether a robot is "better" than a human doctor. They emphasized the robot's advantages, but then go on to say that humans have "more dexterity" which to me implies that it is still safer to have a human perform the operation. I'm pretty curious as to how much information this woman was given before the surgery - she seems very trusting of her doctors, and I hope they didn't take advantage of that to turn her into an experiment.
    • by timmarhy (659436)
      you do realise somewhere along the line someone has to be the experimental patient, right?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by somersault (912633)
      More dexterity but probably less stability and more chance of being nervous, or getting pumped up on adrenaline and shaking? That kind of thing.
  • Did the robot lick the brain and think it was a pig?

    Oh wait. The operation was successful. If it thought the patient was bacon then it would use more vet techniques.
  • by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @04:21AM (#23451372) Homepage Journal
    ...oh yeah, I forgot... it's Canada.

    Sure, she gets a free, first-ever, tumor removing robot surgery for free... but she probably had to wait for it, right Rush?

    • by kkazakov (857677)
      But if you're in the US, you might never get to this, or it would cost something you cannot afford. You should not make jokes with this story. I'm pretty sure she doesn't find it funny.
      • I'm pretty sure she's not reading this. But she might find it funny if she did, because the target of the joke is not her, it's the U.S. medical system.
    • Re: waiting lists (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)
      There are no waiting lists for time-sensitive surgery. You get it when you need it.

      Waiting lists are for elective procedures, like getting your hip replaced. Sure, it would be NICE to have a new hip in time for golf season, but missing a few tee times won't kill you.
    • While I appreciate your humor, I hasten to point that NOTHING is ever free when it comes to health care. Even in Canada. In Alberta, families pay premiums, which for a family can be anywhere from one to two thousand a year. Though I believe those over 65 are exempt. A similar scheme exists in British Columbia. In Ontario, I believe employers pay all health care premiums.

      The point is that health care is NOT free in Canada. This is a popular misconception (or lie as some would argue) perpetuated by some
      • by b0bby (201198)
        One to two thousand a year for a family sounds like a bargain to me. Even if you're paying with that strong Canadian dollar! It pains me to think what I'm paying...
  • But did how friendly [slashdot.org] was the robot?
  • Sick bunny (Score:5, Funny)

    by DarkWicked (988343) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @05:02AM (#23451514)

    provided surgeons with the tools needed to successfully remove the egg-shaped tumour.
    That's one SICK easter bunny they have over there.
  • How is this any more of a robot than construction equipment? They're both "this joystick controls how this part of the machine moves"
  • This is great (Score:5, Interesting)

    by melted (227442) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @05:46AM (#23451668) Homepage
    Just think how much of a boon this is for microsurgeons - folks who stitch together nerves, small blood vessels, etc. Hand tremor and even its inherent precision is no longer an issue. Plus, you can have more than two "hands". This will only get better, and eventually we'll probably see minor surgeries performed without any human intervention.
    • by dbcad7 (771464)
      But there was human intervention in this case.. a human was operating the controls of the robot arm.

      Not putting it down.. much nicer to tell the arm to start a cut at point A and a specific depth and end at point B.. I had some repair work done on my knee, and I have an extremely long scar.. did he start at the wrong place and just keep going till he found what he was looking for ?? don't really know, and better I don't think about it too much...

      As I have done some CAD/CAM work before this is interestin

    • It's a boon for microsurgery. But is it for microsurgeons, if their special talents become valued less?

      Next thing, it will be offshored - then automated. That is, unless the "surgeon unions" have something to say about it...
      • by melted (227442)
        It's a boon for both. Microsurgeons will make fewer mistakes and be able to perform more complex operations.
        • Could be. It depends on if they can absorb fewer mistakes and greater complexity.

          That is, they currently are making significant mistakes, and that there are more complex operations that they'd like to do but currently cannot.

          Those assumptions sound reasonable to me.
    • by BlueHands (142945)

      Just think how much of a boon this is for microsurgeons - folks who stitch together nerves, small blood vessels, etc. Hand tremor and even its inherent precision is no longer an issue. Plus, you can have more than two "hands". This will only get better, and eventually we'll probably see minor surgeries performed without any human intervention.

      Is there really any doubt that as time moves forward minor, and then major, surgeries are going to be more automated all the time?

      The interesting question for me is not if but how fast this happens. It seems likely that in just 15 years, 30 at the insanely litigious most, you could have one talented surgeon overseeing 5 major surgeries at the same time, acting as an exec over the computers/robots/whatever that are in fact performing all of the major work themselves.

      I mention litigious above because that is

  • See? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Godji (957148) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @06:32AM (#23451820) Homepage

    Doctors used remote controls and an imaging screen, similar to a video game, to guide the two-armed robot through Paige Nickason's brain
    See, Jack Thompson was right all along. COMPUTER GAMES CAN MESS WITH YOUR BRAIN!!!

    (The captcha for this post happens to be "lawful". COINCIDENCE?! I think not!)
  • My RSS list cut off the last word from the title.
  • by Extremus (1043274) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @07:18AM (#23452020)
    "GAME OVER! You killed the patient! Press START to continue."
  • X-ray.vns How can you view such a file.
    (they come from dentist office x-rays)

    the header looks like this:

    00000000 4C 45 41 44 00 00 20 64 00 64 00 00 00 00 00 00 LEADÂÂ dÂdÂÂÂÂÂÂ

    Is it a DICOM file? Digital Imaging Communications?
    By the way -- Iclone didn't open it.
  • by lewko (195646) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @08:39AM (#23452334) Homepage
    Doctors used remote controls and an imaging screen, similar to a video game

    Doctor: Dammnit nurse! Guide me over to the Health bonus

    Nurse: There's no time Doctor! We're losing the patient.

    Doctor: Okay. We have to cheat death. Press up-up-left-left-up-up-down-select.

    Nurse: It's working! The patient has full health!

    Doctor: Tumour P3wnd!
    • by JoCat (1291368)
      Nurse: "P3wned? Doctor, I believe you mean Pwn3d"

      Doctor: "Damnit Nurse, I'm a doctor not a script kiddie."

      Nurse: "^&*(^#$&*(^^&*(Y&*(#@T&*C(TYC&*#(Y@&#(^AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA"

      Doctor: "root@localhost"
  • The first time I scanned the headline...I thought it said "robot removes Calgary woman's brain."

  • My RSS reader just printed this story as "Surgical Robot Removes Calgary Woman's Brain ..."
  • Doctors used remote controls and an imaging screen, similar to a video game, to guide the two-armed robot through Paige Nickason's brain during the nine-hour surgery Monday

    Immediately afterwards the doctors ran outside, carjacked an old lady, jumped a ramp and fired an uzi into crowds.
  • What, you guys don't read Heinlein?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waldo_(short_story) [wikipedia.org]

    BTW, I read somewhere (and naturally forgot all about it until now) that one of the features being implemented in surgical waldoes is a low-pass filter, which removes any tremor or shaking in the surgeon's hand from the final instrument's movement. Sounds like a win to me.
  • Why is this story featured in the Times Colonist?
    That's a completely different area of medicine.

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