The Carnegie Mellon team--led by Takeo Kanade, co-director of CMU's Medical Robotics and Computer Assisted Surgery Center--will focus on the development and applications of computer vision, sensors and robotic devices for computer-assisted surgery. Projects already underway there include: HipNav, a computer-based surgical assistant that helps surgeons more accurately plan and place the socket portion of a hip implant; image overlay systems; and error compensation systems to solve the problem of imprecision in microsurgery due to physiological hand tremor.
MIT will contribute computer models to plan and guide the surgery. "We take medical scans of a patient and use them to create a graphical reconstruction of the patient's internal anatomy," says Eric L. Grimson, MIT's principal investigator for the center and a professor in the department of electrical engineering and computer science. A prototype of the MIT system has been in almost daily use at Brigham and Women's Hospital since 1997.
Human surgeons far surpass machines in adaptability and, most important, judgment. But human hands need a large opening in which to work. They sometimes experience tremors and fatigue and may have difficulty manipulating very small objects. Also, humans can be harmed by the radiation used in some medical treatments. A mechanical "hand," skillfully directed by a surgeon, could overcome these drawbacks. "You could transcend human limitations in the execution of surgical tasks," says Taylor.
Image: Carnegie Mellon
If the effort pans out, before a scalpel even touches the patient a surgeon will be able use advanced imaging and modeling equipment to plan the operation on a computer screen. "Then, in the operating room," Taylor says, "we will be able to match the virtual reality of this plan with the actual reality of the surgery."