Adaptive Control Improves Sclera Force Safety in Robot-Assisted Eye Surgery: A Clinical Study

Ali Ebrahimi, Muller G. Urias, Niravkumar Patel, Russell H. Taylor, Peter Gehlbach, Iulian Iordachita

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The integration of robotics into retinal microsurgery leads to a reduction in surgeon perception of tool-to-tissue interaction forces. This blunting of human tactile sensory input, which is due to the inflexible mass and large inertia of the robotic arm as compared to the milli-Newton scale of the interaction forces and fragile tissues during ophthalmic surgery, identifies a potential iatrogenic risk during robotic eye surgery. In this paper, we aim to evaluate two variants of an adaptive force control scheme implemented on the Steady-Hand Eye Robot (SHER) that are intended to mitigate the risk of unsafe scleral forces. The present study enrolled ten retina fellows and ophthalmology residents into a simulated procedure, which simply asked the trainees to follow retinal vessels in a model retina surgery environment. For this purpose, we have developed a force-sensing (equipped with Fiber Bragg Grating (FBG)) instrument to attach to the robot. A piezo-actuated linear stage for creating random lateral motions to the eyeball phantom has been provided to simulate disturbances during surgery. The SHER and all of its dependencies were set up in an operating room in the Wilmer Eye Institute at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. The clinicians conducted robot-assisted experiments with the adaptive controls incorporated as well as freehand manipulations. The results indicate that the Adaptive Norm Control (ANC) method, is able to maintain scleral forces at predetermined safe levels better than even freehand manipulations. Novice clinicians in robot training however, subjectively preferred freehand maneuvers over robotic manipulations. Clinician preferences once highly skilled with the robot is not assessed in this study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3356-3365
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021


  • FBG sensors
  • Robot-assisted surgery
  • Sclera force control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering


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