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Robot Surgeon Removes Brain Tumor

Tornado Science, Facts and History

The robotic 'hands' of NeuroArm are rock-steady, and can move in much smaller increments than a human being's hands.

Earlier this month, NeuroArm was used to remove a brain tumor from the patient Paige Nickason — a first.

The human hand can steady itself and move in increments of one or two millimeters. NeuroArm can move in increments of just fifty microns. A micron is one millionth of a meter. Also, NeuroArm's robotic 'hands' can operate in the brain in a way that is less invasive and more delicate than a surgeon's hands.

NeuroArm is not an autonomous robot; it operates under the direction of physicians using remote controls and an imaging screen for close work.

I think science fiction writer Raymond Z. Gallun called this one in his 1939 story Masson's Secret:

"There was a long steel arm or standard that could be clamped on the end of an operating table. At the end of the arm was a binocular microscope. Beneath the latter were hundreds of screw buttons. And gathered right where the microscope was focused - where a needle-point beam of intense light could be projected for illumination - there was a ring of tiny metal prongs. You turned the screws below and the prongs moved - any or all of them - in any plane or direction you could mention, and with caliper slowness, minuteness and precision. At the end of each prong was a surgical tool - blades, tweezers, probes - so fine you could just see them with the naked eye. "Micro-surgery!..."

Robert Heinlein came close on this one; he thought about "ultramicrominiature waldoes" that could be used to perform microsurgery just a few years later.

(This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission of Technovelgy.com)

Bill Christensen catalogues the inventions, technology and ideas of science fiction writers at his website, Technovelgy. He is a contributor to Live Science.