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Children's National Team Improves Robotic Surgery in the Sheikh Zayed Institute via Smart Tissue Anastomosis Robot

Washington, DC -- Children’s National Health System’s Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation is developing a novel robotic system for minimally invasive procedures in pediatric surgery, such as connecting blood vessels, to be more effective, improve patient care, and reduce costs.

Peter C. W. Kim, MD, CM, PhD,  Vice President of the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, along with colleagues, Axel Kreiger, PhD, and Simon Leonard, PhD, have initiated the program known as STAR (Smart Tissue Anastomosis Robot: A Vision-Guided Robotics System for Laparoscopic Suturing) for more efficient surgical procedures.

The Children’s National robotic system would be an upgrade from current popular robotic controls, which have limited automation and rely heavily on surgeon input and planning. The robot reduces frequency of complications, includes ‘real time tracking,’ is more accurate, and is five times faster than when surgeons use manual laparoscopic tools, Dr. Kim says. 

“What is available in the market now is ‘robotic surgery’ that is basically robot-assisted, and none have true automation during procedures,” Dr. Kim says.  

While current robotic mechanisms are overwhelmingly surgeon driven, the new device would be half-automated and half directed by surgeons.

The Children’s National robot features a laparoscopic suturing tool capable of running sutures from image-based commands. It is attached to a custom-made motor stage, with a “control architecture that enables a surgeon to select and track incisions and placement of stiches,” according to Dr. Kim. He says robots should be more efficient and affordable for thousands of hospitals that no longer have the opportunity to get more expensive models in popular use. “This is the robotic of the future,” Dr. Kim says.

The STAR incorporates three novel approaches:

  • The automation of one of the most common procedures in surgery: anastomosis, with real time feedback from the surgeon in the operating room.
  • A new closure/sewing approach called an “end effector” that performs the closure more effectively and efficiently.
  • A new visual modality that tremendously improves and enhances the surgeon’s view of the surgical field to improve accuracy.

“Within its limitations, the STAR was more efficient and more consistent than human surgeons,” Dr. Kim’s report states. “We believe the gains demonstrated by the STAR can be extrapolated to significant improvements for more challenging tasks such as end to end laparoscopic anastomosis in surgical environments.” 

Dr. Kim, a pediatric surgeon and scientist, implements the Institute’s vision of innovative, multidisciplinary research and development in pediatric surgery. His research focuses on the development of smarter surgical tools, including image guidance and robotics, smarter simulation technologies that prepare tomorrow’s pediatric surgeons through a hands-on approach rather than the traditional lecture-based medical training model.

He has authored more than 100 papers and 50 abstracts on a range of topics, with a special emphasis on developmental molecular biology as well as innovation and technology, including minimally-invasive surgical techniques.

Contact: Leah Parker, or Joe Cantlupe at 202-476-4500.

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