Intelligent robotic imaging system for keyhole surgeries

Case study from the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund.

Medical robotics is making keyhole surgery simpler, safer and cheaper. Robotic imaging systems improves both visualisation and access issues in surgery. The enhanced situational awareness offered by this imaging system can make keyhole surgery more accurate. It also improves surgical outcomes and enhances the training process for surgeons.

The new imaging system developed combines

  • state-of-the-art minaturised stereo cameras
  • ultrasound sensing and
  • artificial intelligence.

Australia-India Strategic Research Fund

Professor Ross Crawford and Associate Professor Ajay Pandey co-led a joint team researching a new class of medical robotics. Queensland University of Technology (QUT) partnered with:

  • Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras)
  • All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi and
  • University of Adelaide.

The Australian project team received almost $1 million from the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund.

Conventional medical imaging systems can track the position of bone and medical tools only in open surgery. Achieving this in minimally invasive surgeries has been a technological challenge. The new system solves this problem and enables tracking of multiple tissue strucutures and tools in 3D. To achieve this the researchers developed multimodal imaging system and trained artificial intelligence to automatically label images of the

  • femur
  • anterior cruciate ligament and
  • meniscus within the knee cavity.

It gives surgeons precise knowledge of the surgical site. Working with this dynamic 3D model is a game changer.

The technology developed can be adapted for hip, shoulder, abdominal, and heart surgeries. The deep learning algorithm has shown promise in general applicability of ultrasound as imaging and segementation tool for spinal surgery.

The project’s discoveries have attracted other potential industry partners. It has put Australia on the medical robotics world map. The successful collaboration has spurred further prototypes, new licences and planned patent applications.

The project skilled up a future workforce of PhD students and postdoctorates. Armed with new knowledge, they are supporting medtech start-ups and established healthcare research organisations. They are strengthening the innovation health ecosystem.

This collaborative research project has strengthened international relationships between Australian and Indian researchers. This is despite challenges faced by both countries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Research partners in both countries have deepened scientific collaboration via:

  • face-to-face meetings and annual workshops
  • bilateral exchange of early career researchers and research staff
  • video networking, emails and phone calls.

Both QUT and IIT Madras have continued their research collaboration in medical robotics. They are expanding into data science and materials science. This collaboration has resulted in other clinical collaborations in Europe and in Australia.

Their research results have been published in several high-impact journals and three book chapters. The team also presented their research at top conferences worldwide.

The researchers expect unintended injuries during surgery to drop using the new technology. They also expect to enhance and speed up the training of surgeons. The researchers hope that the robotic technology can make keyhole surgery mainstream with improved healthcare outcomes for the benefit of patients in both India and in Australia.

Team leaders

Australian Team Leader:

Professor Ross Crawford – Queensland University of Technology

Indian Team Leader:

Associate Professor Mohansankar Sivaprakasam – Indian Institute of Technology Madras

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