Vitreo-retinal eye surgery robot : sustainable precision

Vitreo-retinal eye surgery encompasses the surgical procedures performed on the vitreous humor and the retina. A procedure typically consists of the removal of the vitreous humor, the peeling of a membrane and/or the repair of a retinal detachment.

Vitreo-retinal surgery is performed minimal invasively. Small needle shaped instruments are inserted into the eye. Instruments are manipulated by hand in four degrees of freedom about the insertion point. Two rotations move the instrument tip laterally, in addition to a translation in axial instrument direction and a rotation about its longitudinal axis. The manipulation of the instrument tip, e.g. a gripping motion can be considered as a fifth degree of freedom.

While performing vitreo-retinal surgery manually, the surgeon faces various challenges. Typically, delicate micrometer range thick tissue is operated, for which steady hand movements and high accuracy instrument manipulation are required.

Lateral instrument movements are inverted by the pivoting insertion point and scaled depending on the instrument insertion depth. A maximum of two instruments can be used simultaneously. There is nearly no perception of surgical forces, since most forces are below the human detection limit. Therefore, the surgeon relies only on visual feedback, obtained via a microscope or endoscope. Both vision systems force the surgeon to work in a static and non ergonomic body posture. Although the

surgeon’s proficiency improves throughout his career, hand tremor will become a problem at higher age.

Robotically assisted surgery with a master-slave system can assist the surgeon in these challenges. The slave system performs the actual surgery, by means of instrument manipulators which handle the instruments. The surgeon remains in control of the instruments by operating haptic interfaces via a master. Using electronic hardware and control software, the master and slave are connected. Amongst others, advantages as tremor filtering, up-scaled force feedback, down-scaled motions and stabilized instrument positioning will enhance dexterity on surgical tasks. Furthermore, providing the surgeon an ergonomic body posture will prolong the surgeon’s career.

This thesis focuses on the design and realization of a high precision slave system for eye surgery.

The master-slave system uses a table mounted design, where the system is compact,

lightweight, easy to setup and equipped to perform a complete intervention. The slave system consists of two main parts: the instrument manipulators and their passive support system. Requirements are derived from manual eye surgery, conversations with medical specialists and analysis of the human anatomy and vitreo-retinal interventions.

The passive support system provides a stiff connection between the instrument manipulator, patient and surgical table. Given the human anatomical diversity, presurgical adjustments can be made to allow the instrument manipulators to be positioned over each eye. Most of the support system is integrated within the patient’s headrest. On either the left or right side, two exchangeable manipulator-support arms can be installed onto the support system, depending on the eye being operated upon.

The compact, lightweight and easy to install design, allows for a short setup time and quick removal in case of a complication. The slave system’s surgical reach is optimized to emulate manually performed surgery.

For bimanual instrument operation, two instrument manipulators are used. Additional instrument manipulators can be used for non-active tools e.g. an illumination probe or an endoscope. An instrument manipulator allows the same degrees of freedom and a similar reach as manually performed surgery. Instrument forces are measured to supply force feedback to the surgeon via haptic interfaces. The instrument manipulator is designed for high stiffness, is play free and has low friction to allow tissue manipulation with high accuracy. Each instrument manipulator is equipped with

an on board instrument change system, by which instruments can be changed in a fast and secure way. A compact design near the instrument allows easy access to the surgical area, leaving room for the microscope and peripheral equipment.

The acceptance of a surgical robot for eye surgery mostly relies on equipment safety and reliability. The design of the slave system features various safety measures, e.g. a quick release mechanism for the instrument manipulator and additional locks on the pre-surgical adjustment fixation clamp. Additional safety measures are proposed, like a hard cover over the instrument manipulator and redundant control loops in the controlling FPGA. A method to fixate the patient’s head to the headrest by use of a custom shaped polymer mask is proposed.

Two instrument manipulators and their passive support system have been realized so far, and the first experimental results confirm the designed low actuation torque and high precision performance.