Robotic Eye Surgery: Science Fact Is Stranger Than Fiction

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Eye surgery is one of the most complicated and difficult forms of surgery to perform. The eyes are so sensitive, and the margin for error so thin, that the slightest mistake could lead to complications and potentially harm the patient’s eyesight.

While manual surgery done by humans has become quite advanced and can produce very good results, it’s still quite challenging and risky. When what you’re dealing with requires precision at the microscopic level, tiny, minute things like the surgeon’s pulse flowing through his veins can cause a mistake to occur, even if the surgeon is an expert.

It’s no surprise, then, that ophthalmologists and eye surgeons have long hoped for a newer, better way to perform delicate eye surgeries with less risk involved. An incredible new technological breakthrough involving the use of robotics might just be the answer they’re looking for.

 

When Eye Surgery is Necessary

Eye surgery actually goes back many thousands of years. There are writings from ancient Greece describing methods for the removal of cataracts and treatments for other eye conditions. But even today, with far more advanced technology, eye surgery is never something that’s undertaken lightly (with the arguable exception of laser eye surgery for vision correction).

Surgery is sometimes necessary to remove cataracts or membranes that form on the surface of the eye, which can lead to a condition called epiretinol membrane. If left unchecked, these growths can negatively impact the affected person’s vision and lead to serious problems, up to and including blindness.

One example of a condition that may require surgery is when a membrane forms over the retina. In such cases, a membrane over the eye might be as little as ten microns thick—thinner than a human hair.

It’s possible to remove these membranes through conventional surgical techniques, but the risk of making a mistake is always there. The membrane must be removed without damaging the retina, which is no easy feat. A new robotic surgery trial conducted in the United Kingdom offers hope that such mistakes may become a thing of the past.

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