Researchers in Britain have successfully carried out the first trial of robot-assisted retinal surgery, the University of Oxford announced on Monday.
The trial took place at Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital, and the robotic surgical system is designed and developed by Preceyes BV, the Dutch medical robotics firm.
It involved 12 patients. Half of these patients were randomly allocated robot-assisted surgery and the other half to standard manual surgery to remove a membrane from the back of the eye, according to the university.
Using the robot, the surgeon was able to perform the procedure with equal or better efficacy than in the traditional manual approach. In the second phase of the trial, the team used the robot to insert a fine needle under retina to dissolve blood in three patients who had age-related macular degeneration. All experienced an improvement in their vision as a result.
"This is a huge leap forward for delicate and technically difficult surgery, which in time should significantly improve the quality and safety of this kind of operation," said Robert MacLaren, Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford.
"Our next step will be to use the robotic surgical device for precise and minimally traumatic delivery of a gene therapy to the retina, which will be another first-in-man achievement and is set to commence in early 2019," said MacLaren.