Despite decades of successful robotic-assisted surgeries in the US that have positively impacted millions of patients, there is still limited access to this technology in developing countries. The reason, according to Dr. Sudhir Srivastava, founder and CEO of SS Innovations (SSI), is related to the affordability and complexity of existing robotic surgery systems. These are the challenges that SSI is tackling head-on.
Dr. Srivastava and his team recently took an important step forward in demonstrating core functionality of a modular robotic surgical system, using Energid Technologies' Actin robotics control toolkit to quickly and cost-effectively develop the critical motion control software for the robots.
“Current robotic systems are far too expensive and take years to master, which means that very few surgeons are trained to operate these systems and much of the world is unable to access this technology,” said Dr. Srivastava, one of the early pioneers in minimally invasive and robotic cardiac surgery who has performed over 1,400 robotic cardiac surgical procedures.
Dr. Srivastava’s goal is to build an affordable surgical robot that is easier for surgeons to use and provides superior outcomes for patients. “We chose Actin for its power and versatility, allowing us to achieve our vision of a modular surgical robot and bring it to market quickly,” said Dr. Srivastava.
“Creating surgical robot control software from scratch continues to be a major technical challenge and barrier to entry for new surgical robotics companies,” said Neil Tardella, Energid’s CEO. “Complex robotic systems require advanced real-time control capable of responding to dynamic environments. That’s what Actin does extremely well.”
Leveraging Energid’s Actin software to tackle the complex motion-control problem freed the SSI team to focus on creating robot hardware and a surgeon command center to address core clinical use cases.
SSI’s recent successful technical validation—in which the SSI Mantra system was tested on 10 animals for one exploratory laparotomy and nine cholecystectomy procedures —showed that its efforts are paying off.
The surgeon command center has two adaptable master hand controllers with an extended range of motion to accommodate any surgeon, big or small.
Designed for comfort and ergonomics, the surgeon command center includes a large 3D display that allows the surgeon to sit in a natural upright position. The modular hardware is comprised of four highly dexterous robots that can be attached to the operating table or mobile stands nearby.
An innovation in the SSI system is the use of a software-enforced remote center of motion (RCM). The RCM keeps the surgical instruments stationary at the entry incisions used in minimally invasive 'keyhole' surgery. At the incisions, the surgical instrument can move in and out and pivot, but not translate side to side.
Creating the RCMs in software, rather than hardware, makes the system flexible, allowing the modular robots to be configured differently according to the operation. Advanced motion-control software enables the robots to avoid collisions while performing the required surgical tasks and maintaining the RCM constraint.
“Operating a surgical robot requires coordination of many degrees of freedom, application of unique motion constraints such as an RCM, and low-latency response to the surgeon’s hand motions,” said Douglas Barker, Energid COO, who is leading the software integration effort. “Actin software simplifies these technical challenges, which will help get these kinds of advanced robotics technologies to market more quickly and less expensively.”