Medical and Bio- Robotics
The amount of medical robotics applications exponentially raised in the past few years (e.g. in surgery, rehabilitation, assistance to impaired persons). This field is a perfect framework to combine expertise from our centre (mechanical and electromechanical design, advanced control) and from clinicians. In that respect, we have ongoing collaborations with our institutional hospital, the "Cliniques Universitaires Saint-Luc".
In all these projects, we pay a particular attention to develop our solutions with a "patient-oriented perspective", i.e. by including a large amount of clinical validations with patients and clinicians/therapists in the design process.
On top that, this research axis also features our recent activities in the field of bio-robotics, i.e. the design and control of robots being directly inspired by performances and behavior of living agents (humans or animals).
Aortic valve transapically resected and replaced
- Written by Xavier Bollen and Benoît Herman
Aortic stenosis affects about 2 % of the population aged over 65. This disease consists in a hardening of the cardiac valve that will reduce its capabilities during the opening and the closing. Nowadays, the reference treatment is an open heart surgery in order to replace the diseased valve. This kind of surgery is very traumatic and is so inaccessible to one part of the patients. However, some new mini-invasive technologies allow to a bigger part of the patients to be operated thanks to an expandable prosthetic valve. This surgery is performed without stopping the heart. But these very promising new techniques have some disadvantages because the native valve is not resected. Indeed, the prosthesis is placed on the diseased valve and causes a lot of complications for the patient. The AVATAR² project aims to develop a new medical device that will allow to resect the native valve and to place a new one. This new medical device will permit to these new techniques to reach the performances of the open heart surgery with a reduction of the per- and post-operative traumatisms.
Robotic assistance for enhancing the accuracy of gestures in reconstructive microsurgery
- Written by Léna Vanthournhout and Benoît Herman
Reconstructive microsurgery enables extraordinary procedures such as breast reconstruction, face allograft, or torn member saving. However, several gestures require a precision that goes beyond human dexterity. This project aims at providing an ergonomic robotic assistance that would be integrated transparently and intuitively into standard procedures performed under a microscope, so as to push back the current frontiers of microsurgery and scale it down to the sub-millimeter scale of so-called super-microsurgery. We also intend to decrease the surgical invasiveness in order to reduce the size of scars, and to enable anastomosis under restricted access that are currently unfeasible through the standard open way. The main scientific goal regarding robotics is to quantify the influence of specific parameters of the interface and controller on both ergonomics and usability of the system, and on the resulting accuracy of gestures.
Design and commercialization of upper limbs rehabilitation robots
- Written by Julien Sapin
Many areas of medicine perceive in the progress of robotics, data processing and in the field of multimedia, an opportunity of developing robotic assistance tools to improve the therapist working conditions and to provide more efficient and better care to patients.
Physical and rehabilitation medicine, being aware of the above scientific advancement, has developed upper limbs rehabilitation robots.
Based on this observation, the AXINESIS project aims to develop and commercialize upper limbs rehabilitation robots for stroke patients. These robotic assistance tools complete the standard therapy with exercises that the patient can manage alone.
Assessment and rehabilitation of rhythmic and discrete movements in stroke patients
- Written by Patricia Leconte
Stroke survivor can suffer from severe motor impairments and need to follow a very intensive rehabilitation to reach their highest recovery level. As such, robot-aided therapy can offer an interesting complement to increase the intensity of the rehabilitation. Furthermore, as robotic rehabilitation tools can very accurately measure the movements kinematics of a patient, they can also be an excellent assessment tool.
This is why we are going to use these robots during this project, firstly, to assess the differences of impairments between two fundamental movements, i.e. rhythmic and discrete movements, in stroke patients. Secondly, new robot-aided protocols are going to be developed to train those two types of movements.
Study, realization and validation of an active scope-holder for laparoscopic surgery - EVOLAP
- Written by Benoît Herman
Thirty years ago, the emergence of endoscopic technology opened up the way to minimal access surgery. This new approach strongly decreases the size of incisions and scars, reducing per- and post-operative traumatism and risk of infection. Advantages in terms of pain and aesthetics played a large part in the quick expansion of laparoscopy in urology, gynecology and digestive surgery. But whereas this technique offers many advantages to the patient, it complicates surgical gestures. In particular, manual manipulation of the laparoscope poses many ergonomics problems. Our goal is to design a robotic scope-holder that allows the surgeon to teleoperate the laparoscope.
Starting from this initial demand, this thesis sets out to study laparoscopic surgery into detail, in collaboration with practitioners. Through the clarification of problems that they encounter, performance specifications are established. Subsequently, main choices of the robot's structure are laid down. Design of device's subsets follows a rational process until realization of a functional prototype. Particular attention is paid to general ergonomics of the system and its control interface. An experimental clinical trial ends this work and validates the principle of solution. We finally propose a few design improvements and a series of possible complementary studies and trials, and go back over objectives identified initially, in the light of results achieved and experience acquired in the course of this research.
Ankle Prosthetic Project
- Written by Steve Berger and Christophe Everarts
Transtibial amputation can alter considerably the quality of life. Passive prosthesis (without energy supply) can restore basic locomotion but lacks the ability to produce healthy-like gait support. Indeed, the ankle joint needs high power peaks to propel the whole body forward during ankle pushoff. Without this power, an increase in metabolic energy consumption might appears due to muscles and joints fatigue. A motorised ankle prosthesis is therefore necessary to restore natural gait. This project aims at designing an active artificial ankle which mimick biological functions. Its mechanical conception targets a minimization of electrical energy consumption with the use of a serie elastic actuator. Both simulations and real tests are under development to setup bio-inspired reflexes able to adapt changing walking speed.