Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

The first “smart” robotic micro-drill has been used on a handful of patients in the UK, with very positive outcomes. It was developed by Dr. Peter Brett from the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Aston Univ. and first used in surgery by an ear, nose, and throat doctor who found the drill useful for patients who need cochlear implants.

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Perfect for making tiny holes in breakfast foods.

The drill is applied to the cochlea, the inner ear hearing organ, is aligned to the correct place and then drills a hole less than a millimetre in diameter to enable the cochlear implant to be inserted.

When working with a traditional surgical drill under the microscope the drill tip will naturally perforate the surface through the inner flexible boney tissue interface of the cochlea with the inner membrane and protrude into the space. Using the robotic micro-drill, the device is able to detect the approach of the drill tip as it approaches this tissue interface. It is then able to avoid penetrating the membrane, so avoiding drilling and other debris dropping into the ear.

It is expected that this more precise means of drilling will lead to improved hearing for the patient following implantation.

While so far the tecnhology has only been used in cochlear surgery, the precision this method offers will likely be generalized to many other types of surgery.

Hat tip Bob Abu.