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Researchers giving awareness and sight to medical robots

QUT researchers are developing a new class of surgical robots and designing a multimodal imaging system using ultrasound technology to guide robotic vision for keyhole operations.

First published 3 May 2019

Researchers say for the first time autonomous surgery is possible because ultrasound allows the robot to look inside the body in real time.

  • New medical robotic technology being developed at QUT
  • Orthopaedic and cardiovascular robotic operations require robust platforms
  • Medical robotic technology uses advanced machine learning algorithms for image-processing
  • Minimally invasive surgeries are complex to perform and surgeons often have to work within a limited field of view.

Researchers identified a gap in the technology for robots to autonomously identify different tissue types instantly.


Dr Ajay Pandey is a Senior Lecturer in Robotics and Autonomous Systems at QUT’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science who is among a team of robotics and health researchers testing the new technology.

Dr Pandey said combining advancements in miniature camera technology, 3D ultrasound and machine learning, the project can provide unparalleled situational awareness to medical robots.

“Procedures such as meniscal repair and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in knee arthroscopy require extreme care,” he said.

“Advancing the medical imaging technology will greatly enhance surgeons’ clinical abilities and drastically lower the physical footprint and the cost of surgical procedures.

Dr Davide Fontanarosa (pictured right with PhD student Maria Antico) senior lecturer in medical radiation sciences from the Faculty of Health.

He said ultrasound had many benefits and was the only real-time modality compatible with operating theatres or radiotherapy bunkers.

“Tendons and ligaments, despite their many structural similarities, and several other soft tissues can be distinguished in ultrasound images,” Dr Fontanarosa said.

“Ultrasound imaging is portable, completely harmless to patients and avoids side-effects such as claustrophobia but requires lengthy training to be able to interpret and use it.”

Previous published research revealed a survey of Australian surgeons acknowledged “inadvertent damage” to cartilage tissue during one in 10 arthroscopic knee procedures.

The team includes Chair in Orthopaedic Research and Director of Medical Engineering Research at QUT Professor Ross Crawford and Chief Investigator for the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision Professor Jonathan Roberts.

Medical robotics continues to gain significant traction within the surgical field, with the team’s review published in Medical Image Analysis with other co-authors including PhD student Maria Antico, Dr Fumio Sasazawa, Dr Liao Wu, Dr Anjali Jaiprakash.

Media resources:-
More imagery can be downloaded via flickr
Video and images are also available via Dropbox.

Media contacts:
Debra Nowland, QUT Media, 07 3138 1150 (Mon/Wed/Thurs) or
After hours: Rose Trapnell, 0407 585 901

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