Blood-sucking robot could treat fatal brain haemorrhages

US researchers have built a robot that they claim could suck blood clots out of previously inoperable parts of the brain.

The device created at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee enables surgeons to use information from a CT scan to guide a steerable needle through a small hole in the skull and around important brain tissue to the site of the haemorrhage (bleeding).

The team of engineers and doctors behind the robot hope it could improve the survival chances of brain haemorrhage patients, 40 per cent of whom currently die within one month of the attack, partly because of the danger of existing surgical procedures that involve cutting large holes in the skull.

‘I think this can save a lot of lives,’ said project co-lead and assistant professor of neurological surgery Dr Kyle Weaver, in a statement. ‘There are a tremendous number of intracerebral hemorrhages and the number is certain to increase as the population ages.’

The robot is a hand-held device.
Surgeons currently avoid attempting to remove clots inside the brain because the agreed benefits of removing 25 to 50 per cent of a clot can be offset by the damage done to surrounding tissue. Instead doctors tend to hope that drugs reduce the swelling.

To solve this problem, Weaver and his colleague Robert Webster, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, have adapted a technology they originally designed for operating on brain tumours.

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August 14, 2013



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