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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 February 2006, 00:47 GMT
Robot surgeons match heartbeats
Da Vinci robot
The software is used along with robotic surgery tools
Scientists have devised a way to help robot surgeons work in time to a beating heart, New Scientist reports.

Usually, bypass surgery involves stopping the heart beating and, during the operation, sending blood round the body using an artificial pump.

But this involves opening up the heart and sending blood through a machine.

However, Imperial College London scientists have devised software that synchronises the movement of robotic surgical tools with the heart's beat.

Details of the software, developed by George Mylonas and surgeon Rajesh Aggarwal, were presented to the Medical Devices Technology Conference in Birmingham last week.


The software, used with a robot called da Vinci, uses a two-camera endoscope that feeds images of the heart.

It allows surgeons to operate with the chest closed.

Research into techniques like these has so far suggested a speedier recovery for the patient and a shorter period in hospital
Belinda Linden, British Heart Foundation

The software models the heart and creates a 3D image which appears to the surgeon to be stationary.

At the same time, the software tracks the beating of the heart and instructs the robot's instruments to move backwards and forwards in time with heart's movement.

The software has so far only been tested on artificial silicone hearts using a robotic arm.

But experts have said it shows promise.

Belinda Linden, head of Medical Information at the British Heart Foundation (BHF) said: "The new development of computer assisted robotic heart surgery offers another opportunity to minimise the trauma of major surgery.

"Over the past few years, progress in cardiac surgery techniques has included minimally invasive direct coronary artery bypass surgery, and beating heart surgery.

"The main advantages of these techniques are that there is less need to use a heart-lung bypass machine, and there is reduced trauma to the patient's breast bone or sternum.

"Research into techniques like these has so far suggested a speedier recovery for the patient and a shorter period in hospital.

"The new techniques have initially shown promising results in certain people but more research is needed into their widespread effectiveness."

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