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Launch of SMARTsurg: A new EU project to develop a wearable robotic system for minimally invasive surgery

The SMARTsurg project was launched on 1st January 2017 and includes partners from United Kingdom, France, Greece and, Italy. It aims to develop a wearable robotic system for minimally invasive surgery, also known as keyhole surgery, that will offer surgeons natural and dexterous movement as well as the ability to ‘sense’, ‘see’, control and safely navigate through the surgical environment. The project is funded by the European Research programme Horizon 2020 and will last three years.

Minimally Invasive or key-hole Surgery (MIS) has become an established alternative to the conventional open approaches in a significant number of surgical fields with evidence of effectiveness and patient satisfaction. The global minimally invasive surgery market, which was valued at US$25.03 billion in 2012, will reach a worth of US$50.60 billion by 2019, according to a recent study . MIS has changed the landscape of peri-operative surgical care over the last 3 decades. Teleoperated surgical systems have been increasingly used in MIS procedures over the past ten years. While the case of their use is complex, it is strongly expected that there will be an increasing number of different procedures carried out using telerobotic technology in the coming decade (SPARC, Strategic Research Agenda for Robotics in Europe, 2014-2020). This increase is also reflected in the use of service robotics for medical applications, which corresponds to about 28% of the entire market. Furthermore, a high growth rate for service robotics is expected until 2017 reaching a total amount of $7.4 billion.

The development of robotic surgical platforms (Da Vinci surgical system, Intuitive Medical) has introduced 3D vision and significant improvements in the degrees of movement achieved with surgical instruments within body cavities. This enabled complex extirpative surgery and reconstructive surgery to be performed minimally invasively.

The development of robotic surgical platforms (Da Vinci surgical system, Intuitive Medical) has introduced 3D vision and better ergonomics for the surgeon. In some surgical applications Robot-Assisted (R-A) MIS has shown great promise to outperform traditional laparoscopy or thoracoscopy with evidence of surgical precision, safety and reduced invasiveness. In this endeavour, assisting and enhancing further the surgeon’s performance is of fundamental importance. Further developments are needed to develop more sensitive robotic systems with new teleoperation interfaces to improve their efficacy and to expand their applicability to more complex surgical procedures. To cope with such challenges, the need for developing advanced technologies that will reinforce RAMIS dependability for improved patient safety and cognitive attributes to reduce surgeon’s perceptive load is evident.

The SMARTsurg project aims to develop an advanced system for performing Robot-Assisted MIS that will reduce surgeon’s cognitive load (shorter training time), increase accuracy and safety, reduce MIS procedure time and expand applicability. The project will develop an advanced system for performing Robot Assisted MIS to reduce the surgeon’s cognitive load related to the system’s operation to shorten training time and deliver accuracy, safety, reduced procedure time and expanded applicability. Objectives: a) dexterous anthropomorphic surgical instruments b) wearable hand exoskeleton with haptic feedback to control the surgical instruments, c) wearable smart glasses for augmented reality and 3D reconstruction of the surgical field.

SMARTsurg is an international partnership of ten partners from four countries, decided to join forces to develop a wearable robotic system for minimally invasive surgery. Partners include: the University of the West of England/ Bristol Robotics Laboratory (United Kingdom), Centre for Research and Technology Hellas (Greece), Politecnico di Milano (Italy), Bristol Urological Institute (BUI) - North Bristol National Health Service Trust (United Kingdom), University of Bristol (United Kingdom), European Institute of Oncology (Italy), TheMIS Orthopaedic Center (Greece), CYBERNETIX (France), Optinvent SA (France) and Hypertech Innovations LTD (United Kingdom).

Further details could be found on the project website: http://smartsurg-project.eu/