The US Army has awarded a grant to the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) to continue work on robotic telesurgery research.
Since 2008, researchers have been working with the army’s joint warfighter medical research programme (JWMRP) to develop a miniature robotic technology.
The technology is designed to enable surgeons to perform minimally invasive procedures for military personnel injured on the battlefield.
UNMC Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery and the Center for Advanced Surgical Technology director Dmitry Oleynikov said: "The army is very interested in delivering care to injured warfighters or other personnel in remote areas.
"Right now the biggest thing that they have in their basket is to get the soldier out of the battlefield on a helicopter to where they can get care within the one hour.
"The idea behind the robots is to begin lifesaving measures on soldiers who can’t be transported out immediately."
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UNL mechanical and materials engineering professor Dr Shane Farritor said: "We really think these robots can have a significant effect on health care and the way surgery is performed."
The mini robots are reportedly capable of providing basic diagnosis and triage of internal injuries in war zones and other military environments.
The robot can be inserted into a patient and is controlled by a surgeon in a remote location. It would then transmit live video images to enable surgeons to identify the trauma and serve as a ‘remote first responder’.
Medics would then perform surgery through a tiny incision in the mouth or another natural orifice in theatre, or in a remote area where medical facilities are not available immediately, according to Oleynikov.
The UNMC-UNL team expects to conduct a clinical trial of the technology in 2015.
The $1.4m grant will enable scientists to advance the technology, which may also be applied in civilian settings and rural environments.