An assistant that provides better performance in delicate operations


Is a machine more reliable than a person? We are now at the point were people and machines are able complement each other to a high degree, enabling advances that were previously unimaginable. Enter Maxilaris, a project in which a robotic arm assists surgeons with maxillofacial surgery, where precise incisions need to be made. The robot provides the surgeon with a feeling of greater certainty, improves the ergonomics of the procedure, and increases the possibility of the operation’s success.

A robotic arm guided by cameras helps surgeons find the precise point of entry. Prior to surgery, surgeons use a software program to select the parts of the face that they are going work on. Then while in the operating room, the robot serves as a third arm, signaling where the incision should be made, although ultimately the surgeon makes the final decision. The surgeon rather than the robot makes the incision, though that is due to legal reasons rather than technical difficulties. Would such an operation be possible without any human intervention? Emilio Sanchez , the project’s leader, is fully confident that “it will be possible in the near future.” Sanchez stresses that the obstacles are ethical, not technical.

In addition to aiding the surgeon’s performance, it also ensures that the operation will be cleaner since it reduces the size of the incision, and it also limits the amount of radiation that the surgeon is exposed to.

Ceit-IK4 and Egile partnered to make the prototype. The companies began working together on the ELCANO project, in which the same robotic system was developed to assist in spine surgery. One of the aims of the Maxilaris project is to perfect the prototype and demonstrate that robotic assistance is useful for all types of surgery.

The other project partners are DMP, Vicomtec, EIS and CUN. The project has been funded through 2018 as part of the Spanish government’s “Retos 2015” program.


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