A robot has been used to operate inside the eye to restore sight in a trial funded by the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre.
The team successfully used a robotic device controlled by a joystick to remove a membrane one hundredth of a millimetre thick in the first patient to undergo robot assisted eye surgery. The robot acts like a mechanical hand with seven independent computer-controlled motors resulting in movements as precise as one thousandth of a millimetre in scale.
Whilst robot assisted surgery is common, until now it has not been used inside the eye. This is because of the challenges in developing a robot small enough but still able to operate with the precision required.
The study is designed as a proof of concept trial in which 12 people will undergo procedures of increasing complexity. The aim of the trial is to establish whether the robot can deliver what a surgeon is able to, but with greater accuracy.
The team hope this research will pave the way for more complex procedures than currently possible by hand, taking eye surgery to the next level.