A Skull-Mounted Robot with a Compact and Lightweight Parallel Mechanism for Positioning in Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery


Robotic systems play an increasingly important role in improving feasibility and effectiveness of minimally invasive neurosurgery (MIN). However, large footprint, bulky size, and complex mechanisms limit the clinical application of existing robotic neurosurgery solutions. This paper proposes a novel skull-mounted robot with a compact and lightweight parallel mechanism for positioning of surgical tools in MIN. The system serves as a mechanical guide for automatic positioning of needles, catheters, probes, or electrodes. A parallel mechanism with 4 degrees of freedom (DOFs) is adopted, with the aim of providing sufficient accuracy and load capacity. The volume of the robot is only 50 mm × 50 mm × 40 mm and the weight is 73 g. The miniature design allows the robot to be mounted on the skull easily without consuming space in the operating room while avoiding the patient’s immobilization, simplifying the registration operation, and increasing patient comfort and tolerability. The mechanical design, kinematics and workspace are analyzed and described in detail. Three experiments on the prototype are conducted to test the stiffness, accuracy and performance. Results show that the deflection is less than 0.1 mm for holding common surgical tools and the tracking errors are less than 1.2 mm and 1.9° which is acceptable for MIN. The robot can be easily and firmly mounted on the skull model and cadaver head, and flexibly manipulated on the skull model.