Robotic Medicine

Saint Luke's Episcopal Hospital is the first in the world to test an automobile robot for use in treating neurovascular patients. As Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports the FDA may approve the robot based on feedback from Saint Luke's physicians.

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The Artis zeego robot started as an auto mechanic. But with a slight comestic overhaul and an imaging system instead of welding arm, the robot can provide incredibly precise and detailed images of stroke damage, blood clots and blocked arteries.

"We have replaced a human factor by a robotic arm. And essentially it's the same robot that they use in Germany to build Mercedes and to build BMW cars, it's a very accurate and precise process. They have used exactly the same technology to automate the acquisition of X-ray and the rendering of diagnosis using X-ray."

Dr. Michel Mawad is the director of Neurovascular Radiology at St. Luke's. Watching him demonstrate the robotic arm is a bit like watching a kid with a shiny new toy. You can tell he's excited about what this machine can do and what it might mean for his field of medicine.

"The degree of angulation and the versatility of this machine is just -- I have not seen it. I have been in this business for 30 years now, this is the first time I see such a versatility of equipment."

X-ray has been available for decades, but this robotic arm provides an infinite number of angles to capture images. It uses a three-axis system to move in any direction, so doctors can see areas of damage they weren't able to get to in the past. And the images are relayed in real time, while the doctor is performing the procedure. Jay Livey is one of the first patients to undergo treatment using the robot. He suffered a minor stroke and his doctor referred him here for a stent placement.

"I was probably nervous about it at first, until I talked to Dr. Mawad's staff and actually talked to him also to make sure he was comfortable in using it and liked the new configuration and thought that it helped him do his work. Once I heard that I was fairly calm about it."

Mawad says the robot enables him to treat stroke and aneurysm with the utmost degree of safety and accuracy. If things go as well as anticipated, the robot could be FDA approved by early next year. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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