A research team from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and UNL have received a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Army to continue work on robotic telesurgery research.
The University of Nebraska research team has been working since 2008 with the U.S. Army’s Joint Warfighter Medical Research Program to develop miniature robotic technology to enable surgeons to perform minimally invasive procedures for members of the military injured on the battlefield.
The NU team is led by Dr. Dmitry Oleynikov, director of UNMC's Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery and the Center for Advanced Surgical Technology, and UNL's Shane Farritor, professor of mechanical and materials engineering.
“The Army is very interested in delivering care to injured warfighters or other personnel in remote areas,” said Oleynikov. “Right now the biggest thing that they have in their basket is to get the soldier out of the battlefield on a helicopter to where they can get care within the one hour. The idea behind the robots is to begin lifesaving measures on soldiers who can’t be transported out immediately.”
He said the mini robots have the capability to provide basic diagnosis and triage of internal injuries in war zones and other military environments. The robot can be inserted into the patient and be controlled by a surgeon in a remote location. The device would transmit live video images so surgeons could identify the trauma and serve as a “remote first responder.”
"We really think these robots can have a significant effect on health care and the way surgery is performed," Farritor said. "We hope to do a clinical trial next year."
Oleynikov is the principal investigator of the grant. Farritor is co-investigator of the grant.
The surgery would be done via a tiny incision, through the mouth or another natural orifice, by surgeons far away, Oleynikov said. The person injured would be in a war zone or in a remote area where medical facilities aren’t immediately available.
“With the grant we’ll continue the successful work we’ve been doing,” Oleynikov said. “I think the grant and working with the Department of Defense is important. We’re doing some very exciting work as expertise in this surgery isn’t all that common.”
The technology ultimately may be applied in civilian settings and rural environments.