Annals of Biomedical Engineering

, Volume 46, Issue 10, pp 1676–1685 | Cite as

In-Human Robot-Assisted Retinal Vein Cannulation, A World First

  • Andy GijbelsEmail author
  • Jonas Smits
  • Laurent Schoevaerdts
  • Koen Willekens
  • Emmanuel B. Vander Poorten
  • Peter Stalmans
  • Dominiek Reynaerts
Medical Robotics


Retinal Vein Occlusion (RVO) is a blinding disease caused by one or more occluded retinal veins. Current treatment methods only focus on symptom mitigation rather than targeting a solution for the root cause of the disorder. Retinal vein cannulation is an experimental eye surgical procedure which could potentially cure RVO. Its goal is to dissolve the occlusion by injecting an anticoagulant directly into the blocked vein. Given the scale and the fragility of retinal veins on one end and surgeons’ limited positioning precision on the other, performing this procedure manually is considered to be too risky. The authors have been developing robotic devices and instruments to assist surgeons in performing this therapy in a safe and successful manner. This work reports on the clinical translation of the technology, resulting in the world-first in-human robot-assisted retinal vein cannulation. Four RVO patients have been treated with the technology in the context of a phase I clinical trial. The results show that it is technically feasible to safely inject an anticoagulant into a \(100\,{\mu} {\rm m}\)-thick retinal vein of an RVO patient for a period of 10 min with the aid of the presented robotic technology and instrumentation.


Surgical robot Retinal vein occlusion Retinal endovascular surgery REVS Eye surgery Microsurgery 



This research was funded by the University of Leuven, an Innovation Mandate of Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (HBC.5016.0250), an SB Fellowship of the Research Foundation Flanders (1S41517N) and Agentschap voor Innovatie door Wetenschap en Technologie (O&O 145046). Thrombogenics sponsored both the in-vivo preclinical study and the phase I clinical study.


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Copyright information

© Biomedical Engineering Society 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andy Gijbels
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jonas Smits
    • 1
  • Laurent Schoevaerdts
    • 1
  • Koen Willekens
    • 2
  • Emmanuel B. Vander Poorten
    • 1
  • Peter Stalmans
    • 2
  • Dominiek Reynaerts
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Mechanical EngineeringKU Leuven - University of LeuvenHeverleeBelgium
  2. 2.Department of OphthalmologyKU Leuven - University Hospitals LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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