Research in surgical robotics has an established track record at Imperial College, and a number of research and commercial surgical robot platforms have been developed over the years. The Hamlyn Centre is a champion for technological innovation and clinical adoption of robotic, minimally invasive surgery. We work in partnership with major industrial leaders in medical devices and surgical robots, as well as developing our own platforms such as the i-Snake® and Micro-IGES platforms. The Da Vinci surgical robot is used extensively for endoscopic radical prostatectomy, hiatal hernia surgery, and low pelvic and rectal surgery, and in 2003, St Mary’s Hospital carried out its first Totally Endoscopic Robotic Coronary Artery Bypass (TECAB).

The major focus of the Hamlyn Centre is to develop robotic technologies that will transform conventional minimally invasive surgery, explore new ways of empowering robots with human intelligence, and develop[ing miniature 'microbots' with integrated sensing and imaging for targeted therapy and treatment. We work closely with both industrial and academic partners in open platforms such as the DVRK, RAVEN and KUKA. The Centre also has the important mission of driving down costs associated with robotic surgery in order to make the technology more accessible, portable, and affordable. This will allow it to be fully integrated with normal surgical workflows so as to benefit a much wider patient population.

The Hamlyn Centre currently chairs the UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems (UK-RAS) Network. The mission of the Network is to to provide academic leadership in Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS), expand collaboration with industry and integrate and coordinate activities across the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded RAS capital facilities and Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs).


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  • Journal article
    Giataganas P, Hughes M, Payne C, Wisanuvej P, Temelkuran B, Yang GZet al., 2019,

    Intraoperative robotic-assisted large-area high-speed microscopic imaging and intervention

    , IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, Vol: 66, Pages: 208-216, ISSN: 0018-9294

    IEEE Objective: Probe-based confocal endomicroscopy is an emerging high-magnification optical imaging technique that provides in-vivo and in-situ cellular-level imaging for real-time assessment of tissue pathology. Endomicroscopy could potentially be used for intraoperative surgical guidance, but it is challenging to assess a surgical site using individual microscopic images due to the limited field-of-view and difficulties associated with manually manipulating the probe. Methods: In this paper, a novel robotic device for large-area endomicroscopy imaging is proposed, demonstrating a rapid, but highly accurate, scanning mechanism with image-based motion control which is able to generate histology-like endomicroscopy mosaics. The device also includes, for the first time in robotic-assisted endomicroscopy, the capability to ablate tissue without the need for an additional tool. Results: The device achieves pre-programmed trajectories with positioning accuracy of less than 30um, the image-based approach demonstrated that it can suppress random motion disturbances up to 1.25mm/s. Mosaics are presented from a range of ex-vivo human and animal tissues, over areas of more than 3mm<formula><tex>$^2$</tex></formula>, scanned in approximate 10s. Conclusion: This work demonstrates the potential of the proposed instrument to generate large-area, high-resolution microscopic images for intraoperative tissue identification and margin assessment. Significance: This approach presents an important alternative to current histology techniques, significantly reducing the tissue assessment time, while simultaneously providing the capability to mark and ablate suspicious areas intraoperatively.

  • Journal article
    Georgilas I, Dagnino G, Tarassoli P, Atkins R, Dogramadzi Set al., 2018,

    Robot-assisted fracture surgery: surgical requirements and system design

    , Annals of Biomedical Engineering, Vol: 46, Pages: 1637-1649, ISSN: 0090-6964

    The design of medical devices is a complex and crucial process to ensure patient safety. It has been shown that improperly designed devices lead to errors and associated accidents and costs. A key element for a successful design is incorporating the views of the primary and secondary stakeholders early in the development process. They provide insights into current practice and point out specific issues with the current processes and equipment in use. This work presents how information from a user-study conducted in the early stages of the RAFS (Robot Assisted Fracture Surgery) project informed the subsequent development and testing of the system. The user needs were captured using qualitative methods and converted to operational, functional, and non-functional requirements based on the methods derived from product design and development. This work presents how the requirements inform a new workflow for intra-articular joint fracture reduction using a robotic system. It is also shown how the various elements of the system are developed to explicitly address one or more of the requirements identified, and how intermediate verification tests are conducted to ensure conformity. Finally, a validation test in the form of a cadaveric trial confirms the ability of the designed system to satisfy the aims set by the original research question and the needs of the users.

  • Journal article
    Tudor A, Delaney C, Zhang H, Thompson AJ, Curto VF, Yang GZ, Higgins MJ, Diamond D, Florea Let al., 2018,

    Fabrication of soft, stimulus-responsive structures with sub-micron resolution via two-photon polymerization of poly(ionic liquid)s

    , Materials Today, Vol: 21, Pages: 807-816, ISSN: 1369-7021

    Soft, stimulus-responsive 3D structures created from crosslinked poly(ionic liquid)s (PILs) have been fabricated at unprecedented sub-micron resolution by direct laser writing (DLW). These structures absorb considerable quantities of solvent (e.g., water, alcohol, and acetone) to produce PIL hydrogels that exhibit stimulus-responsive behavior. Due to their flexibility and soft, responsive nature, these structures are much more akin to biological systems than the conventional, highly crosslinked, rigid structures typically produced using 2-photon polymerization (2-PP). These PIL gels expand/contract due to solvent uptake/release, and, by exploiting inherited properties of the ionic liquid monomer (ILM), thermo-responsive gels that exhibit reversible area change (30 ± 3%, n = 40) when the temperature is raised from 20 °C to 70 °C can be created. The effect is very rapid, with the response indistinguishable from the microcontroller heating rate of 7.4 °C s−1. The presence of an endoskeleton-like framework within these structures influences movement arising from expansion/contraction and assists the retention of structural integrity during actuation cycling.

  • Journal article
    Singh H, Modi HN, Ranjan S, Dilley J, Airantzis D, Yang G, Darzi A, Leff Det al., 2018,

    Robotic surgery improves technical performance and enhances prefrontal activation during high temporal demand

    , Annals of Biomedical Engineering, Vol: 46, Pages: 1621-1636, ISSN: 0090-6964

    Robotic surgery may improve technical performance and reduce mental demands compared to laparoscopic surgery. However, no studies have directly compared the impact of robotic and laparoscopic techniques on surgeons’ brain function. This study aimed to assess the effect of the operative platform (robotic surgery or conventional laparoscopy) on prefrontal cortical activation during a suturing task performed under temporal demand. Eight surgeons (mean age ± SD = 34.5 ± 2.9 years, male:female ratio = 7:1) performed an intracorporeal suturing task in a self-paced manner and under a 2 min time restriction using conventional laparoscopic and robotic techniques. Prefrontal activation was assessed using near-infrared spectroscopy, subjective workload was captured using SURG-TLX questionnaires, and a continuous heart rate monitor measured systemic stress responses. Task progression scores (au), error scores (au), leak volumes (mL) and knot tensile strengths (N) provided objective assessment of technical performance. Under time pressure, robotic suturing led to improved technical performance (median task progression score: laparoscopic suturing = 4.5 vs. robotic suturing = 5.0; z = − 2.107, p = 0.035; median error score: laparoscopic suturing = 3.0 mm vs. robotic suturing = 2.1 mm; z = − 2.488, p = 0.013). Compared to laparoscopic suturing, greater prefrontal activation was identified in seven channels located primarily in lateral prefrontal regions. These results suggest that robotic surgery improves performance during high workload conditions and is associated with enhanced activation in regions of attention, concentration and task engagement.

  • Journal article
    Elson DS, Cleary K, Dupont P, Merrifield R, Riviere Cet al., 2018,

    Medical robotics

    , Annals of Biomedical Engineering, Vol: 46, Pages: 1433-1436, ISSN: 0090-6964

    Medical robotics encompasses surgical, therapeutic and rehabilitative devices that are changing medicine and healthcare. Although the field of medical robotics predates Intuitive’s da Vinci by more than a decade, it was the clinical and commercial achievements of that system that brought medical robotics to widespread patient and public attention. It is now more than 15 years since the robot began to be used for laparoscopic prostatectomy.1 Since then, research in the field has advanced tremendously due to various technological breakthroughs. Over the last few years, there has been a surge in commercial activities in medical robotics, led both by traditional medical device and technology companies as well as new start-ups. This special issue has been commissioned to capture some of the latest research being carried out by these multidisciplinary bioengineering teams and to showcase how some of these advances can impact clinical care.

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