Medical Robotics: State-of-the-Art Applications and Research Challenges

Medical Robotics: State-of-the-Art Applications and Research Challenges

Alireza Mirbagheri, Mina Arab Baniasad, Farzam Farahmand, Saeed Behzadipour, Alireza Ahmadian
DOI: 10.4018/jhisi.2013040101
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Many research and development projects are being performed worldwide to develop new products and applications for computer-assisted and medical robotic systems. In this paper, an overview of selected state-of-the-art applications of robotic technology in medicine is presented. Four key areas of image-guided surgery, virtual reality in medicine, surgical robots, and robotic rehabilitation systems, are studied. As well, current challenges in research and development are discussed.
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Computer-assisted and robotic surgery procedures are becoming common clinical practices in recent years as a result of the rising trend towards minimally invasive and geometrically precise surgeries. They are proved to provide better clinical results and lower the overall costs of medical services through shorter hospital stays, shorter recovery times, and reduced need for repeated surgery. The domain of applications has now been extended to the full spectrum of the medical treatment, from diagnosis to preoperative planning, surgery execution, and postoperative rehabilitation. The products are thus rather diverse, ranging from modeling and visualization software tools to surgical simulator units, navigation systems, surgical robots, and robotic rehabilitation apparatus. The discipline inherently involves the integration of many different computer-related technologies. Modern medical imaging systems, such as CT, MR, PET, together with advanced techniques of image processing and modeling, 3D anatomy visualization, real-time tracking and sensing, haptics and robotics are considered to be the key underlying technologies.

Considering the wide range of technologies, products and applications, a number of different names have been attributed to the discipline, e.g., image-guided surgery, computer-assisted surgery, medical robotics, medical virtual reality, computer-integrated surgery. We prefer the term “medical robotics” as it emphasizes on the underlying technologies more comprehensively and includes all the tools developed for a range of applications as wide as the medical science. It should be noted that the term robotic in this context does not necessarily refer to a robotic mechanism but indicates an application of the multidisciplinary and vast robotic science in medicine. The science spans a wide spectrum of fields and techniques such as image processing, 3D object modeling, computer-aided design, coordinate measurement and navigation, motion planning, man-machine-interfacing, control and finally design and analysis of mechanisms. Each of the above branches of this science has found exciting applications in the medical sciences and referred to as medical robotics.

In the medical robotics lab of the Research Center of Biomedical Technology and Robotics (RCBTR), we have worked on a variety of research projects in different fields of medical robotics, in partnership with several clinics and medical centers (Farahmand, Amirnia, Sarkar, Behzadipour, Ahmadian, & Mirbagheri, 2012). A wide range of clinical problems were indentified and appropriate technologies were pursued, mainly in four key areas of image-guided surgery, virtual reality in medicine, surgical robots, and robotic rehabilitation systems. This article provides an overview on the applications of robotics in medicine, with emphasis on the projects performed and experiences gained by our team in the field.

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