Development and deployment of an autonomous micro-drilling system for cochleostomy

  • Robin P. Taylor

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis describes the design and development of an autonomous micro-drilling system capable of accurately controlling the penetration of complaint tissues and its application to the drilling of the cochleostomy; a key stage in the cochlea implant procedure.
The drilling of the cochleostomy is a precision micro-surgical task in which the control of the burr penetration through the outer bone tissue of the cochlea is vital to prevent damage to the structures within and requires a high degree of skill to perform successfully. The micro-drilling system demonstrates that the penetration of the cochlea can be achieved consistently and accurately. Breakthrough can be detected and controlled to within 20µm of the distal surface and the hole completed without perforation of the underlying endosteal membrane, leaving the membranous cochlea intact.
This device is the first autonomous surgical tool successfully deployed in the operating theatre. The system is unique due to the way in which it uses real-time data from the cutting tool to derive the state of the tool-tissue interaction. Being a smart tool it uses this state information to actively control the way in which the drilling process progresses. This sensor guided strategy enables the tool to self-reference to the deforming tissue and navigate without the need for pre-operative scan data. It is this capability that enables the system to operate in circumstances where the tissue properties and boundary conditions are unknown, without the need to restrain the patient.
Date of AwardMay 2008
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPeter N Brett (Supervisor)


  • robotic surgery
  • sensor guided
  • smart tool

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