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First intubation robot unveiled

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | April 18, 2011
Robot at work.
(Photo courtesy
McGill University)
Earlier this month Canadian doctors performed the first intubation procedure using a robot, with the doctor involved in the case saying the new tool could be as revolutionary as surgical robots.

"I believe that the [robot] can do for anesthesia what these systems have done for surgery", said Dr. Armen Aprikian, the surgeon who treated the patient at Montreal General Hospital, in a statement.

[Read about whether owning a surgical robot encourages prostatectomies.]
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The robot, dubbed the Kepler Intubation System, or KIS, has a mounted video-laryngoscope and is controlled by a joystick. With it, the anesthesiologist can insert an endotracheal tube into a patient's throat, something that has to be done to allow artificial ventilation during most procedures involving general anesthesia.

The KIS robot could allow safer intubation, as it gives anesthesiologists better precision with less effort, according to its designer, Dr. Thomas M. Hemmerling, a professor of anesthesiology at McGill University in Montreal.

Hemmerling's lab developed McSleepy, the first robot to deliver anesthetic drugs, in 2008.

Before trying the device out on a real human, the team first tested it on mannequins designed to mimic "intubation conditions" in people.

"One day, it might actually be the standard practice of airway management," Hemmerling said in a statement.

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