Intraocular Microrobotic Surgery
Future intraocular surgery will be partially automated in order to increase the surgeons' ability to operate near the sensitive structure of the human eye retina. Untethered microrobotic devices that achieve the desired precision have been proposed to assist in intraocular operations. Since the interior of the human eye is externally observable, vision can be used for localization. We are investigating the ability of an intraocular untethered microdevice to be tracked and localized visually, and controlled.
Currently approximately four percent of the world population are visually impaired. Diseases in the posterior eye segment account for the majority of causes for blindness. Especially in industrialized countries, due to changing demographics and ageing of the population, the percentage of people with ophthalmic impairments is expected to increase further. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause for visual deficiencies in the industrialized world, followed by glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and cataract.
Nowadays, many methods for ophthalmic surgery exist. Most medical interventions on the retina require vitrectomy, which is a procedure where the vitreous humor (a gel-like substance) is removed from within the ocular globe and replaced by gas or liquid. This ocular surgery bears the risks of infections, retinal detachment, bleeding and others. Thus, only highly skilled and experienced ophthalmic surgeons undertake this operation.
Ophthalmic Surgery using Intravitreal Microrobots
It has been suggested to utilize microrobots to assist in minimally invasive ophthalmic surgery. The microrobot is injected into the vitreous in the posterior eye segment using a syringe equipped with a needle through the sclera. The needle is narrow, so that suture-less surgery can be guaranteed, hence decreasing the risk of infections and damage to the delicate structures of the eye. Subsequently, the microrobot can be magnetically moved and controlled wirelessly inside the eye using the OctoMag, a magnetic manipulation system. Inside the vitreous, the microrobot can be used as a tool assisting in ophthalmic surgery. The microrobot position in the eye can be tracked visually and controlled precisely via a feedback loop.