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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