World’s first robotic brain surgery could be a game-changer for patients

A neuroradiologist in Toronto has reportedly carried out the world’s first robotic brain surgery. The robot-assisted aneurysm coiling was conducted on a 64-year-old female patient at Canada’s Toronto Western Hospital and Krembil Brain Institute on November 1. The patient had suffered a major aneurysm, a bulge of a blood vessel in the brain that can be potentially lethal.

A team led by Vitor Mendes Pereira used the robot arm to help treat the aneurysm by guiding a catheter to the patient’s brain from an incision made near the groin. The procedure is described as a significant milestone in interventional medicine in building toward new treatments for patients suffering from a neurovascular disease.

“Robotic systems have been developed for various surgical and interventional procedures but until now, no one has ever used a robot to treat disease of the neurovasculature,” Mark Toland, CEO of Corindus, a Siemens Healthineers Company which developed the robot used for the procedure. “The goal is that one day physicians will be able to use robotics to remotely treat patients suffering from a stroke, who currently don’t have access to treatment. Access to care for emergent procedures such as stroke is one of, if not the biggest, unmet needs in healthcare today — even in the U.S. Enabling robotics for neurovascular procedures at the local level is the first step in addressing this problem.”

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The robot used in the procedure is a CorPath GRX. This second-generation robotics platform is capable of “submillimetric” movements. It is controlled using joysticks and touchscreen controls. A bedside robotic technician performs all the tableside responsibilities, including interacting with the robot to exchange devices such as guidewires, microcatheters, and coils.

While this robot was connected via a hardwired communication cable, its creators hope that it will one day be possible to carry this out remotely. (Remote surgeries have previously been carried out for other procedures.)

Before the procedure was carried out, Pereira practiced the robotic procedure using a 3D model of the patient’s exact anatomy. “The physician and scrubbed team prepared using a similar workflow to how the actual procedure would run to ensure the procedural flow and communication across the team would be smooth,” Toland noted.

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