Thursday, 07 June 2012 09:21
Modern surgery typically requires cardiac surgeons to temporarily paralyze the heart during the operation, however a set of tiny new tools developed by experts at Boston Children's Hospital could change all that.
According to the MIT Technology Review, the millimeter-scale devices could allow surgeons to operate on the heart through small incisions as it continues to pump blood throughout the body. The devices are, in fact, already used in some surgeries, however their prevalence will likely grow, as the minimally invasive technique allows patients to recover much more quickly than traditional surgery methods, and also lowers the patient's risk of infection.
In cardiac surgery, the small robotic implements have had to be introduced to the body through catheters, but because of their instability, getting enough force to place them precisely has been difficult. Looking for a way to fix this problem, the experts at Boston Children's Hospital began using a curved metal tube form of the robots, which are more sturdy and can be placed in the heart with more accuracy.
"With standard open-heart procedures, we can pull tissue from one area to another. We can't do that with a catheter. These robotic devices can exert some force, so they are able to do much of what a surgeon does, except they are navigating through the blood vessels," said Pedro del Nido, a pediatric cardiac surgeon who worked on the research project.
The tiny robots begin their journey through a small incision in the neck that gives them access to the large jugular vein, where the long, narrow tubes give the surgical tool a ride through the body's blood vessels to the point of surgery. The tools allow surgeons to close holes in the heart while it is still beating. The device pierces the surface of heart tissue and expand across the hole, then using a system of miniscule gears, chains and pulleys, draws both sides in, closing the hole, the media outlet stated.
"With these devices, we are trying to get best of both worlds," said Howie Choset, who performs engineering research at Carnegie Mellon University, referring to a minimally invasive surgery that still puts to use a skilled surgeon. "When you open up the heart, there are all sorts of things you can do - we want to acquire those capabilities without making a big incision."
Joseph Scolero, a heart patient of Cranberry, Pennsylvania, who recently received the procedure, said it has changed his life, according to the Tribune Live.
"Something had to be done," he said. "It did me a lot of good."