Pilot trial of a Robotic Surgical Device
On 31 August 2016 William Beaver became the first person in the world to undergo robotic eye surgery in an operation conducted at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford and led by Professor Robert MacLaren. The operation used a remotely controlled robot to dissect a membrane 100th of a millimetre thick, which was distorting his vision, off the retina of his right eye - an extremely delicate operation that is a very demanding procedure for a surgeon to do safely by hand.
The robotic surgical device was developed by PRECEYES BV, a Dutch medical robotics firm established by the University of Eindhoven. Over the preceding 6 months, the PRECEYES engineers and the Clinical Ophthalmology Research Group at the University of Oxford had worked together to plan this first-in-human study.
This pilot trial, known as the Robotic Retinal Dissection Device (R2D2) study, involved 12 patients in total. In the first phase of the pilot trial, the robotic surgical device was used to peel membranes off the delicate retina without damaging it. The second phase of the pilot trial used the robotic surgical device to place a fine needle under the retina for therapeutic injections. The successful outcomes of this first-in-human study of robot-assisted retinal surgery were published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.
Future applications of this robotic system for intraocular surgery would include the precise and minimally traumatic delivery of gene therapy or cell therapy to the retina.