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Research to develop a microsurgery robot system

There is an extensive range of medical devices and equipment, including medical robots and surgical devices as well as simple consumables. They are becoming increasingly complex and diverse with advances in technology. An examination of trends in the medical devices market indicates that the United States makes up 43.5% of the world market, while Korea accounts for 1.6%. This is a small figure relative to the future growth of the world medical devices market, and commercialization will require the overcoming of institutional barriers and new endeavors. The microsurgery robot developed in the present study challenges existing limitations and is expected to pioneer new possibilities for the medical devices market.

Limitations and value of microsurgery

Microsurgery is the most difficult form of surgery currently in existence. The outcomes can vary substantially depending on the hand skills and proficiency of the operating surgeon. The future key to success in surgery is the degree to which patients’ wounds are minimized. This is because minimization of wounds speeds up patient recovery and minimizes sequelae. Although medical devices have advanced, laparotomy and incisions are still widespread and patient recovery is slow. There is a need to develop invasive surgical procedures that minimize these weaknesses, and to engage in ongoing research to develop extremely small robotic surgical tools.

Development and commercialization of medical surgical robots

Professor Dong Soo Kwon has been studying medical surgical robots for the past 23 years. He considered whether recent research findings should be simply presented in student theses and patented, or commercialized in order to contribute and give back to society. He and eight of his students decided to start a business to commercialize medical surgical robots. He asked himself which of his many research items from over the years would be most helpful to doctors and patients, and concluded that the answer is microsurgery robots. His research commenced based on the results of a survey suggesting that surgeons find retinal surgery difficult. He has developed a microsurgery robot that offers greater precision than human hands can achieve, and it has now reached the commercialization stage.

A microrobot system to overcome technological limitations

The development of a future-oriented microsurgery robot system through this study to enable shared platforms in the field of microsurgery is expected to spearhead the international microsurgery robot market and achieve at least 500 million dollars in sales in the world market in 2022. The findings of the study have already been recognized internationally. The study was published in the International Journal of Medical Robotics and Computer Assisted Surgery and received the Best Application Award and the Overall Winner at the Surgical Robot Challenge 2018. The study was funded by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and an in-house KI research program. It also received assistance from Sometech, a 3D microscope manufacturer and joint implementer of national projects. Future studies will involve ongoing research and development efforts to overcome previous technological limitations with the aim of developing invasive surgical procedures and microrobotic surgical tools. The outcomes are expected to be commercialized for such applications as eye surgery, microvascular surgery/neurorrhaphy, cosmetic surgery, and skin grafts.

Prof. Dong Soo Kwon
2018 KI Annual Report

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