Design Engineering

Canadian robotic brain surgeon nears regulatory approval

By Design Engineering Staff   

General Medical MacDonald Dettwiler and Associated Ltd. medical design Robotics surgical robot

Approval of IMRIS’s Advancing Image Guided Surgical Robotics Program expected in early 2012.

Winnipeg, MB and Richmond, B.C. — IMRIS Inc. and MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. have entered the final phases of a development agreement for IMRIS’s MR (magnetic resonance) guided surgical robot.

Begun in 2010, the robotic surgery system is being designed initially to perform microsurgery and biopsy-stereotaxy applications on the brain with sub-millimeter precision by combining surgical robotics with real time MR imaging.

The system consists of two robotic arms that can manipulate MR-compatible tools at the microscopic level from a remote workstation. The surgeon sees detailed three-dimensional images of the brain and the surgical tools. Hand controllers equipped with enhanced touch sensation allow the surgeon to feel tissue through the robotic arms and apply appropriate pressure as they operate.

A clinical trial utilizing the first generation of the robot on a group of 120 patients is currently underway, led by Garnette Sutherland, MD, professor of neurosurgery, at Calgary’s Foothills Hospital. The first public demonstration of the robotic technology will take place at the Congress of Neurological Surgeons in Washington, DC.


Under the terms of the multimillion-dollar agreement, MDA is IMRIS’s development and manufacturing partner for image-guided surgical robotics. Regulatory approval is anticipated for the second quarter of 2012.


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