In a world first, doctors have used a robot to operate inside the eye and restore sight of a 70-year-old man in the UK.
A team at John Radcliffe Hospital in the UK used the device, controlled via a joystick, to remove a membrane one hundredth of a millimetre thick.
The membrane was growing at the back of the patient’s right eye. The pressure had created a hole in his retina which restricted his vision to the periphery.
“It’s almost the world of fairy tales but it’s true. I’m just fortunate that I’m the first to have it,” said Bill Beaver, 70, who underwent the surgery.
Robot assisted surgery is commonplace, but until now had never been used inside the eye.
“Operating at the back of the eye needs great precision, and the challenge has been to get a robot system to do that through a tiny hole in the wall of the eye without causing damage as it moves around,” said Robert MacLaren from University of Oxford, who led the procedure.
The Preceyes surgical robot was developed by a Dutch company, a spin-out of Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands.
The surgeon uses a joystick and touch-screen to guide a thin needle into the eye, while monitoring its progress through a microscope.
Large movements of the joystick result in tiny movements of the robot, and if the surgeon releases their grip any movement is frozen, the ‘BBC News’ reported.
“Normally when we do this operation by hand we touch the retina and there is some hemorrhage, but when we used the robot the membrane was lifted cleanly away,” said MacLaren.
The result is that Beaver’s central vision in his right eye has been restored.