AI-powered surgical robot excels in tricky kidney stone procedure


Clinical researchers from Nagoya City University in Japan tested an AI-powered surgical robot in its ability to assist with percutaneous nephrolithotomy, which is a minimally invasive procedure for removing large kidney stones. The technique involves accessing the kidney through the skin and usually requires a very experienced surgeon. The robot, called Automated Needle Targeting with X-ray (ANT-X) was developed by NDR medical technology, a Singapore-based medical startup. The company reports that the robot can assist with needle placement and can calculate needle targeting in seconds, using a single X-ray image. During the trial, the robot made the procedure much easier.

Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL) involves accessing the kidney through the skin of the back. The procedure is difficult, and performing such renal access incorrectly can lead to serious complications, including intestinal perforation, severe bleeding, and sepsis. Therefore, surgeons must undergo years of training before routinely performing the procedure.

The ANT-X robot is designed to make the procedure easier and potentially safer for a less experienced surgeon. The system is intended to be used in conjunction with C-arm fluoroscopy and the robot uses AI to analyze a single X-ray image and then automate needle alignment. In theory, this allows the surgeon to focus on the depth of insertion.

This latest study compared the robot to conventional ultrasound-guided PCNL in a group of patients at Nagoya University Hospital. Only one novice surgeon performed the robot-assisted renal access procedures, while several experienced surgeons performed the conventional renal access procedures.

Obtaining renal access with a single needle puncture occurred 34% and 50% of the time in the conventional and robot-assisted groups, respectively. Additionally, the average number of needle punctures needed was lower in the robot group compared to the conventional group (1.82 times versus 2.51 times). Strikingly, in 14.3% of procedures in the conventional group, the surgeon was unable to gain renal access and another surgeon had to assist. This did not happen in the robot-assisted group.

The results illustrate the usefulness and safety of AI-powered robots in performing time-consuming surgical tasks. “ANT-X simplifies a complex procedure, like PCNL, making it easier for more doctors to perform it and helping more patients through the process,” said Kazumi Taguchi, a researcher. involved in the study. “As an AI-powered robotic technology, this technique could pave the way for automating similar interventional surgeries that could shorten procedure times, ease the burden on experienced physicians, and possibly reduce the occurrence of complications.”

Study in The Journal of Urology: A Randomized, Single-Blind Clinical Trial Comparing Robotic Fluoroscopy-Guided Renal Access to Ultrasound-Guided Renal Access for Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy

Going through: Nagoya City University

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