For the first time ever, a robot was used by a team of surgeons in Oxford, England to operate inside the eye of a man and restore his sight.
The device was used by the team at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital and controlled by a joystick to remove a membrane one hundredth of a millimeter thick.
The patient, Reverend Bill Beaver, had lost almost all of his vision from his right eye due to the membrane covering the retina.
The operation required complete precision and was made possible by the Preceyes surgical robot that was invented in Holland.
The technology of the robot is extremely sophisticated and it even has the ability to filter out the surgeon’s hand tremor when used.
Oxford University Professor Robert MacLaren, who carried out the procedure, said the operation was more efficient with the robot rather than doing it by hand, the BBC reports.
“Operating at the back of the eye needs great precision and the challenge has been to get a robot system to do that through a tiny hole in the wall of the eye without causing damage as it moves around,” MacLaren said.
The professor stated that most robots used in operating theaters are larger “with big engineering,” whereas the device used for the eye procedure is much smaller.
“Normally when we do this operation by hand, we touch the retina and there is some hemorrhage,” he added. “But when we used the robot, the membrane was lifted away. There is no doubt in my mind that we have just witnessed a vision of eye surgery in the future.”
Though 70-year-old Beaver was “fearful” of losing his sight entirely, he said the operation was a huge relief.
“The degeneration in my vision was very scary,” he told the BBC. “I was fearful I would lose my sight entirely so for this intervention to take place so effortlessly is a real godsend.”
While this is the first time in the real world a robot has interacted with a human eye, a Dennis Quaid-controlled miniature machine took us “behind the eyeball” in the 1987 film “Inner Space.”