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R&D initiative puts Canadian group at forefront of robotic surgery


Toronto, ON – Control-system developer Quanser says it has joined in a new research and development partnership to advance robotically assisted surgery. The initiative, a joint effort between Canadian Surgical Technology and Advanced Robotics (CSTAR) and Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), along with the company, puts Canada at the forefront of developing next-generation medical robotic technology.

Led by CSTAR, the $750,000 research project will build on Quanser’s work in the area of haptics and advanced robotic technology, with the ability to add a realistic ‘sense of touch’ to surgical robotic tools. Ontario-based Quanser works in the emerging field of haptics and has previously integrated its expertise and equipment into medical training simulators and surgical robotic prototypes. The company says its haptic technology and research tools will provide integral components for the new project, which is aimed at improving techniques for minimally-invasive surgery (MIS).

“We’re designing robotic tools to enhance surgical capabilities, allowing the surgeon to transcend the limitations of conventional technology and work in a less invasive environment,” says Paul Gilbert, Quanser’s CEO. “As we continue to make advancements, we will see a widening in the range of surgical procedures for which robotically-assisted surgery is suited… from brain-microsurgery to surgery over long distances.”

Robotically assisted surgery allows precision robotic tools to act as a surgeon’s arms, hands and fingers with greater reach, accuracy and effectiveness – and without the need for large incisions. The benefits include less trauma, pain and blood loss; fewer complications; minimal scarring; faster recovery times and shorter hospital stays; and less strain on overburdened healthcare systems.

In the past, the drawback has been that the surgeon would lose the all-important sense of touch. Quanser says its haptic technology resolves this quandary using complex mathematical computer models to convey realistic sensory feelings back to the surgeon. This sense of touch allows the surgeon to check for calcification, to feel the ‘pop’ when a needle pokes through tissue, to feel resistance when suturing, or to feel the forces on a scalpel. The technology also eliminates natural tremors and prevents accidental movements from being transmitted to the robotic tools.

Dr Rajni Patel, director of engineering at C-STAR says, “The need for medical robotic technology is growing exponentially, and haptic-enhanced robotic surgical systems will become the staples of the hospitals and operating rooms of the future.” He adds, “The technology and ideas are right here in Canada, through companies like Quanser, with the potential to dramatically improve health care delivery all over the world.”

The new initiative, entitled ‘Haptics-Enabled Robotics-Assisted Minimally Invasive Surgery,’ is supported by more than half-a-million dollars in up-front cash investment, including $247,000 in funding from OCE. Quanser’s investment in the project is valued at $300,000, which includes a financial contribution of almost $70,000 and engineering services and technical support worth approximately $230,000. Additional funding was provided by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Canada (NSERC).