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Frans Nikkels

Robots improve safety, efficiency and precision of vascular surgery The Flux One system - Christoff Heunis

In life there are many surgical interventions that demand ultimate focus and utmost precision. For instance, placing stents inside blood vessels to restore blood flow using minimally invasive surgery (MIS). Performing such surgeries poses many challenges for the surgeon. This is why the University of Twente's Surgical Robotics Lab has developed a robotic system that eliminates these challenges, making it safer for both patients and surgeons. 

A less invasive solution for vascular disease treatment 

Vascular diseases affecting organs such as the heart and arteries can be risky to treat. The current standard treatment, known as open surgical repair, can result in high-risk complications and unnecessary trauma. Even with minimally invasive solutions, guiding surgical instruments through the complex vasculature to reach delicate and remote organs can be challenging. To make these surgeries even less invasive, and to navigate tools accurately inside the body, robotic mechanisms such as positioning or navigational devices can be employed.            

Robot as an assistant    

Christoff Heunis, researcher at the University of Twente, has developed a robotic system called Advanced Robotics for Magnetic Manipulation (ARMM). Today, a new prototype of this system, known as the Flux One system, has been validated by vascular surgeons. This system assists surgeons during procedures, making them less invasive and faster than traditional techniques. "Unlike other surgical robots that are operated from a distance, the Flux One system is situated beside the surgeon, allowing them to receive assistance from the system and perform the surgery simultaneously. The goal of this system is to help the surgeon with positioning and accuracy of the disposable tools within the body, without making their job obsolete,” Christoff explains.

Magnetic manipulation and camera precision for accurate surgical tool placement

The robotic system allows for the precise manipulation of surgical tools inside the blood vessels of a patient using magnets. The robot arm has a copper wire coil at the end that generates a magnetic field when electricity passes through it. The magnetic fields interact with the surgical tool, positioning it exactly at the right location. The robot arm can also be surrounded by eight bright-red cameras positioned at different heights, forming a detailed image of the patient's position and tracking movements, which helps control the exact insertion of the guidewire in a vein in case the patient moves during surgery. By controlling the electrical current through the magnet, the guidewire tip can be bent in different directions to be navigated through bends in the arteries and positioned it in every desired location.  

The Flux One system not only results in a better and quicker procedure but is also independent of the skills of the operator, making it safer for both the patient and the surgeon. This system saves time and money and therefore benefits everyone involved in the surgical process.

C.M. Heunis (Christoff)
Guest Researcher