Eye surgery has always been one of the most difficult procedures for surgeons to perform. It shouldn't be too hard for a layman to see why eye surgery requires such a high degree of skill. Just one small surgical mistake in the eye could potentially blind a patient for life. To avoid human error, surgeons often have to artificially slow down the patient's heartbeat and operate in-between pulses.
With all of the risks and complications that arise from manually performing eye surgery, it's no wonder eye doctors have been seeking assistance from robots and laser technology in the past few decades. One of the latest laser machines invented for eye doctors is called the femtosecond laser.
A femtosecond is one quadrillionth of a second, which gives you a pretty good indication on how incredibly fast this machine works.
More and more eye surgeons are getting interested in using femtosecond lasers to perform more common eye surgeries like Lasik and cataract surgery. Surgeons find it very convenient to use this laser's 3D visualization system to guide their movements working on the corneal flap (in Lasik surgery) or working on the lens capsule (in cataract surgery).
As for eye surgeons using robots, British surgeons at the University of Oxford have the distinction of being the first in the world to perform a successful eye operation solely using robots. This surgery took place in John Radcliffe Hospital in September of 2016. The surgeons were able to extract a membrane only 100th of a millimeter thick from the back of the patient's right retina.
This high profile success story from Oxford has boosted the reputation of the company Preceyes Medical Robotic Technologies. This company, which is headquartered in the Netherlands, supplied Oxford with the robot used in their surgery. This company hopes this is the first step in a robotics revolution in the surgical industry. Workers at Preceyes already have plans to use their technology for intricate procedures involving stem cells and medicinal injections in the future.
The USA is also getting on board with integrating more robots and lasers into their hospitals. Perhaps the most famous American femtosecond laser provider is called LENSAR. LENSAR, which is based in Florida, has been providing these lasers to help surgeons especially with cataract surgeries.
LENSAR's devices are lauded for taking some of the most precise scans of eyes in the business. Surgeons are able to prepare for surgeries using uncannily accurate computer models of a patient's eyes. Surgeons can even perform practice surgical runs in a kind of video game format before the actual laser surgery. Some reporters have actually explained LENSAR's augmented reality technology as similar to that used in "Pokémon Go."
It seems that the days when surgeons had to worry about shaky hands and human nerves is slowly coming to an end. As robots and femtosecond lasers are increasingly being used by professional eye surgeons, the success rate of complex eye surgeries is only expected to increase dramatically.