For cardiac patients, repair of defects often requires open-heart
surgery and temporary paralysis of the organ. But a set of robotic tools
developed by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital could eventually enable surgeons to operate on the heart through small incisions while the heart continues to beat.
The use of small incisions and the insertion of robotic tools are
increasingly common in many types of surgery. Such so-called minimally
invasive surgery offers quicker recovery times than conventional surgery
and reduced risk of infection, because the cuts in the body are much
smaller. In the case of minimally invasive cardiac surgery, robotic
tools have had to be delivered by catheters—smooth, flexible tubes that
can carry, for example, an artery-opening stent. But because they are
flexible, catheters can deliver only small amounts of force and can be
difficult to position precisely.