Steadier Microsurgery With A Joystick Scalpel

Microsurgery demands almost superhuman dexterity. To perform delicate operations on the eye, for example, surgeons peer through microscopes while wielding tiny scalpels, and the slightest slip can lead to serious complications.

To reduce that risk, Dr. Steve Charles, a Memphis eye surgeon and founder of MicroDexterity Systems Inc., has teamed up with Sandia National Laboratories to develop a robotic system that aims to take the wobble out of wielding a scalpel. Charles envisions a mechanical arm that reproduces a surgeon's movements, but on a vastly smaller scale. So if a surgeon holding a "joystick" scalpel moved it one centimeter, say, the robotic scalpel would track the movement--but for only one millimeter. Plus, the system would filter out inadvertent movements. Charles expects to have a product on the market within two years, to be priced around $100,000.

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