Automated Robotic Surgery Advances Cochlear Implantation

Innovative robotic technology and a new surgical procedure could lead to improved hearing outcomes for cochlear implantation patients, according to a new study!

Developed by researchers in Bern, Switzerland, the new robotic cochlear implantation (RCI) technique involves the use of surgical planning software and a robotic drill to create a tunnel approximately 2.5 mm in diameter that can provide access to the cochlea from behind the ear. Due to the size and scale of the robotic procedure, the automated robot carries out the drilling procedure without the need for direct, manual operation by the surgeon.

The minimally invasive keyhole tunnel runs at a safe distance between the facial nerve and the nerve responsible for taste so that the electrode lead of the implant can be inserted into the cochlea at the correct pre-planned angle. Safe navigation and drilling inside the human ear while avoiding damage to nerves and microscopic structures of the inner ear is accomplished through a combination of interlocking safety components that include computer-assisted planning, GPS-like image guidance, in situ assessment of tissue properties, and neuro-monitoring. This procedure will also reduce the time the patient has to be anesthetized and wound healing will be speedier.

“This first robotic cochlea implantation is the result of a decade of multidisciplinary research by a team of biomedical engineers, neuro-radiologists, neurologists, audiologists, and surgeons,” said senior researcher Professor Marco Caversaccio.

This technology will be tremendously beneficial to prospective cochlear implant candidates in future and we hope to see this a reality within the next 10 years!

1.; Weber, et. al. Instrument flight to the inner ear, Science Robotics Journal.March, 2017.
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