Brain tumors are among the most feared complications of cancer and they occur in 20–40% of adult cancer patients. Despite numerous advances in treatment, the prognosis for these patients is poor, with a median survival of 4–8 months. The primary reasons for poor survival rate are the lack of good continuous imaging modality for intraoperative intracranial procedures and the inability to remove the complete tumor tissue due to its placement in the brain and the corresponding space constraints to reach it. Intraoperative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) supplements the surgeon’s visual and tactile senses in a way that no other imaging device can achieve resulting in less trauma to surrounding healthy brain tissue during surgery. To minimize the trauma to surrounding healthy brain tissue, it would be beneficial to operate through a narrow surgical corridor dissected by the neurosurgeon. Facilitating tumor removal by accessing regions outside the direct “line-of-sight” of the neurosurgical corridor will require a highly dexterous, small cross section, and MRI-compatible robot. Developing such a robot is extremely challenging task. In this paper we report a preliminary design of 6-DOF robot for possible application in neurosurgery. The robot actuators and body parts are constructed from MRI compatible materials. The current prototype is 0.36” in diameter and weighs only 0.0289 N (2.95 grams). The device was actuated using Flexinol® which is a shape memory alloy manufactured by Dynalloy, Inc. The end-effector forces ranged from 12 mN to 50 mN depending on the robot configuration. The end-effector force to robot weight ratio varied from 0.41 to 1.73. During trials the robot motion was repeatable and the range of motion of the robot was about 90 degrees for the end-effector when one side shape memory alloy (SMA) channel was actuated. The actuation time from the start to finish was about 2.5 s.

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