Doctors Successfully Complete the First Robotic Eye Surgery

On Sept. 9, British surgeons at the John Radcliffe hospital used a robot to operate on the human eye. This successful surgery, the first of its kind, is a stepping stone to further advancements in robotic surgeries.

The patient, Father William Beaver, age 70, had claimed have had problems with the clarity of his vision. The optician found a membrane developing at the back of the patient’s right eye. “The pressure had created a hole in his retina which was destroying his central vision”, claims BBC. This internal growth caused his vision to distort and made his eyesight blurry. The patient explained before the surgery, “When I hold up a book, all I can see is mush in the centre, and my vision in that eye is restricted to the periphery.”

To regain clear vision, the membrane had to removed from the retina without any other internal damage.  

Professor Robert MacLaren from University of Oxford explained,”Operating at the back of the eye needs great precision, and the challenge has been to get a robot system to do that through a tiny hole in the wall of the eye without causing damage as it moves around” (BBC).

A device fitting that criteria, called the Robotic Retinal Dissection Device (commonly referred to as R2D2 ), was used in performing this surgery. “The R2D2, developed by Dutch medical robotics firm Preceyes BV, is designed to perform keyhole surgery, entering and exiting the eyeball through a single, sub-millimeter hole”, states the website Engadget.

This robot works without any tremors, therefore eliminating any miniscule trembling of hands, such as pulses, that surgeons have. This robot operates an extremely thin needle that is controlled by a motorised joystick.

After undergoing the pioneer surgery, Dr Beaver said, “The degeneration in my vision was very scary and I was fearful I would lose my sight entirely – so for this intervention to take place so effortlessly is a real godsend.”

Soon, 12 other patients will go through surgeries with this same robot. This surgery will take eye surgery to the next level with other complex procedures that cannot be completed by human hand.

Prof MacLaren exclaims, “There is no doubt in my mind that we have just witnessed a vision of eye surgery in the future.”