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Next generation surgical robots: Where's the doctor?
Date:7/20/2010

DURHAM, N.C. -- As physician-guided robots routinely operate on patients at most major hospitals, the next generation robot could eliminate a surprising element from that scenario -- the doctor.

Feasibility studies conducted by Duke University bioengineers have demonstrated that a robot -- without any human assistance -- can locate a man-made, or phantom, lesion in simulated human organs, guide a device to the lesion and take multiple samples during a single session. The researchers believe that as the technology is further developed, autonomous robots could some day perform many more simple surgical tasks.

"Earlier this year we demonstrated that a robot directed by artificial intelligence can on its own locate simulated calcifications and cysts in simulated breast tissue with high repeatability and accuracy," said Kaicheng Liang, a former student in the laboratory of Stephen Smith, director of the Duke University Ultrasound Transducer Group at the Pratt School of Engineering and senior member of the research team. "Now we have shown that the robot can sample up to eight different spots in simulated human prostate tissue."

The results of the Duke research appear in the current issue of the journal Ultrasonic Imaging. An earlier study reported in the January issue of the journal Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology described the Duke team's results on simulated breast tissue. In both experiments, whole turkey breasts were used. Raw turkey breasts are commonly used in medical research because the tissue closely resembles that of humans in texture and density, and appear similar when scanned by ultrasound.

The Duke team combined a "souped-up" version of an existing robot arm with an ultrasound system of its own design. The ultrasound serves as the robot's "eyes" by collecting data from its scan and locating its target. The robot is "controlled" not by a physician, but by an artificial intelligence program that takes
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Contact: Richard Merritt
richard.merritt@duke.edu
919-660-8414
Duke University
Source:Eurekalert  

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Next generation surgical robots: Where's the doctor?
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