Like any couple, the Singhs were elated at the birth of their baby girl, Riya. Their faces lit up at the sight of her bright eyes and playful smile, and things seemed to be going well, until, they discovered that their baby suffered from craniosynostosis – a rare syndrome often diagnosed through the absence of a soft spot on the baby’s skull. This condition occurs when the bones in a baby’s skull join together before the brain is fully formed. As the baby’s brain grows, the skull can become more malformed, causing an aesthetic problem and sometimes, a restriction to brain growth.
Needless to say, the young parents are worried – not just about the skull surgery that will be necessary, but also about the after-effects of it on their baby’s health. A surgeon will have to make a cut and separate sutures (or the fibrous joint that holds together cranial bones) leading to a lot of blood loss. The scars will take longer to heal.
It is in situations like this that Kochi-based ASIMoV Robotics, in collaboration with Dr Derick Amith Mendonca, is hoping to step in and minimise trauma. “We have been working on developing a minimally-invasive craniotomy (skull cutting) robot for the past two years,” says Jayakrishnan T, founder and CEO of the start-up. Essentially, the procedure involves making a small opening of 12-18 mm on the infant’s skull, sending a robot in to separate the sutures and getting the robot out. The working prototype is expected to be ready soon, adds Jayakrishnan.
While robots slipping into the skull are yet to be a reality, bots are being welcomed into operation theatres (OT) or are orchestrating procedures from outside it. Take what happened at Ahmedabad’s Apex Heart Institute, for instance. In 2018, a middle-aged woman had a heart attack and was diagnosed with a blocked artery. With her permission, Dr Tejas Patel, chief interventional cardiologist at the hospital, conducted the world’s first tele-robotic