Better cancer treatment - biomechatronics for precision surgery

- EN - DE
The TU Ilmenau is developing a method for robotic surgery that will enable much
The TU Ilmenau is developing a method for robotic surgery that will enable much more effective treatment of malignant cancer tumours

In a large-scale research project, the Technische Universität Ilmenau is developing a method for robotic surgery that will enable much more effective treatment of malignant cancerous tumors. With a combination of highly sensitive sensor technology, modern imaging and artificial intelligence, the surgeon can perform the operation more precisely and with less tissue damage than ever before - significantly improving the patient’s chances of recovery. The joint research project "Sensorized Surgery" is being funded by the Carl Zeiss Foundation with five million euros over the next six years, of which the TU Ilmenau will receive 800,000 euros.

In order to be able to decide how the robot should make the incisions during an operation in precision surgery, the surgeon must also be able to recognize the boundaries of the tumours with comparable precision. Surgical robots such as the avatera system developed by industry in Ilmenau achieve an accuracy of up to 0.1 millimetres when cutting body tissue - but only theoretically in cancer surgery: the white light image-based video endoscopy currently used to detect the tumor boundary is so imprecise that in up to 30 percent of cases the tumor is not completely removed. The result: poorer chances of recovery and survival rates for patients.

The "Sensorized Surgery" research project led by Jena University Hospital aims to use a combination of biophotonically measuring and haptically "feeling" sensors, modern imaging and artificial intelligence to perform cancer surgery that promises patients better chances of recovery and at the same time simplifies the work of doctors.

During the operation, the body tissue is "measured" optically and mechanically using innovative physical methods. Highly sensitive sensors analyze the tissue in real time not only visually, but also haptically, so the surgeon receives direct tactile feedback on the nature of the tumor in addition to visual feedback. If the optical and mechanical analysis produce different results, the corresponding zones are displayed on a screen for the surgeon. This allows the surgeon to compare the different risk scenarios, which helps him to make a decision on how to proceed with the operation. Additional information required for the respective surgical step can also be displayed on the screen using augmented reality. For example, the surgeon can mark the tumor area under consideration with the traffic light colors red, yellow and green, which immediately classify it as malignant, unsafe or benign.

In the sub-project at TU Ilmenau, Prof. Hartmut Witte, Professor of Biomechatronics , is developing the mechanical analysis for the haptic representation of tumor tissue. He is certain that the combination of different technologies will significantly improve the treatment of cancerous tumors: "Surgery is also a craft. In order to assess the surgical site, it is important for the doctor to see and feel at the same time. But with robotic surgery, there are places that cannot be felt with the fingers. We now give the surgeon the opportunity to grasp the objects with both sensory organs, the eyes and the hands, and even with the greatest technical acuity. In this way, he can use all his experience based on what he sees and feels, as he is used to doing in classical surgery, and this is always the most important factor for the success of an operation. Because despite all the technology - the final decision is always made by the person."