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NASA and University of Washington researchers plan on testing a mobile surgical robot in an underwater capsule next month

NASA researchers have spent a large amount of time looking into different forms of technology that would allow them to conduct potentially life-saving operations on patients in remote areas.  To help, researchers from the University of Washington have been working on a portable robotic surgeon that can allow surgeons to operate while being remotely located miles away.  The surgeon -- which researchers named Raven -- will begin testing in May.

Raven will be located in an underwater capsule off the coast of Florida while attempting to sew up a piece of rubber.  The mission crew will be comprised of two NASA astronauts, a surgeon and a NASA flight surgeon, with the team expected to closely monitor the robot's movements while it works in the capsule.  Three surgeons located at a different location will be controlling Raven's arms during the experiment.

University of Washington researchers from the BioRobics Lab have spent the past five years building Raven.

Many larger hospitals already have surgical robots that are able to be operated by a human controller, but they are often times too big and too heavy to be efficient for mobile purposes.  However, Raven weighs 50 pounds and is small enough to be located on the back of an armored vehicle or in a space shuttle storage compartment.

Robots like Raven could have a strong impact around the world.  UW researchers believe that it could be used in disaster areas so doctors would be able to perform procedures in remote areas without physically being there.

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By Ramshambo on 4/20/2007 8:56:08 AM , Rating: 2
I think this thing would give me a heart attack and die anyway if I saw this thing cut into me!

Does anybody know how complex of a surgery it can do?

RE: eeek!
By Lifted on 4/20/2007 9:14:38 AM , Rating: 2
I would think they would have a doctor and a few nurses at the table during any procedure to prep the patient, prep and outfit the robot with the correct instruments, and be there in case of any complications. This thing is probably designed for having a specialist remotely perform their part of the suregery using the robotic arms, while a general surgeon on location does the dirty work.

RE: eeek!
By LuxFestinus on 4/20/2007 9:55:26 AM , Rating: 2
Most likely you would not see it cut into you as it would anethesize you on the spot and prep you for surgery.

Wonder if HITL is involved
By giantpandaman2 on 4/20/2007 2:23:37 AM , Rating: 3
Considering it's part of the UW campus. (HITL=Human Interface Technology Lab)

It would be pretty weird if it wasn't. They do neat stuff if anyone hasn't heard of them. Take a gander. :)

Very cool...but
By ThisSpaceForRent on 4/20/2007 8:28:59 AM , Rating: 2
I am curious why they are going through the added expense of doing the experiment in an underwater capsule. I mean, couldn't they just stand in another room, and do the experiment?

Regardless of the odd execution for a test. This is something that, I believe, will quickly make it's way around the medical community. Even if this test is a flop, they must have done enough work on the project to be confident it would work.

Something like this would be perfect for isolated communities, and of course the military.

Surgical Tools
By TimberJon on 4/20/2007 11:38:49 AM , Rating: 2
Web searches turn up nothing on the equipment list for these arms. Im guessing the 50 lbs is NOT including the table or aluminum stretcher frame or whatever the arms are mounted to.

And I also doubt that all that bulk and tool-looking bulk is all for precision movement. Looks like syringe cartriges and things have to be inserted into the injector-looking mounts. But I think things like clips and scalpels are already within the unit. Wouldnt make sense to have to do an emergency remote-surgery and the nurses or support staff have to hurriedly equip the unit with a certain this or that. I think the pods are meant to hold every type of tool really needed, and probably stitch (as will be shown in the tests on some rubber).

Im thinking this is an advanced Johnny 5.

What a shame...
By captchaos2 on 4/21/2007 1:50:16 PM , Rating: 2
If only they had this out sooner at the Johnson Space Center, they could have had it ready for any casualties.

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