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ing and back into inventory where the process repeats. This is a logistical challenge for hospitals. Missing or broken instruments can cause serious delays in the OR. Delays can cause patients to be under anesthesia for longer than necessary. Poor instrument counts can lead to instruments being left behind, possibly in a patient. Considering these factors, there is tremendous value in having a system less prone to human error in the process to do instrument prep and pack. RST sees instrumenta-

Rush LaSelle is director of worldwide sales and marketing, Adept Technology. For more information on Adept Technology solutions:

For more information on Robotic Systems and Technologies (RST) solutions:

tion processing as an ideal location to apply lean manu- facturing principles, and utilizing robotic techniques is a logical extension.


The company developed the PenelopeCS system to help automate key functions in the hospital’s ster- ile supply department. The system uses RST’s Bagel software and vision system and an Adept Viper six-axis robot from Adept Technology. The Adept Viper six-axis robot is a high-performance articulated robot designed specifi cally for precision applications. The robot is fi tted with a magnetic-end effector, allowing it to pick up the instruments.

A hospital’s sterile processing department has a dirty side, where instruments are washed down and disinfected, and a clean side, where they are prepped, packed and ster- ilized in an autoclave. Working on the clean side of sterile processing, the PenelopeCS robot performs counting, sorting and inspecting of instruments. The robot ensures that each instrument tray sent to the OR contains the correct instruments per the count sheet and that they are all in good working order. Furthermore, as these instru- ments are loaded, PenelopeCS will seamlessly update the hospital’s inventory control system to provide traceability while reducing the workload on sterile supply staff. The company’s engineers have developed a robust and sophisticated robotic control language called Bagel. The Bagel software allows PenelopeCS to formulate high-level goals, such as unloading trays of instruments or sorting instruments into stacks, and create a series of individual steps to accomplish those goals. If the operator interrupts PenelopeCS in the middle of this process, the system will remember the preempted goal and the last completed step so it can resume the process after taking care of the operator’s request. RST has also used Bagel to capture an extensive knowledge base of information about surgical instruments: their types, shapes, synonyms, physical characteristics and so on. PenelopeCS can use

this knowledge base in conjunction with a proprietary machine vision system to identify surgical instruments. Third-party identifi cation systems can also be integrated into the system to use barcodes to identify individual instruments. “From our research, we estimate that hospitals adopt-

ing the Penelope CS system will be able to improve qual- ity, utilize labor more effi ciently and reduce the costs of processing surgical instrument trays by 23 percent,” says Dr. Treat. “We further predict that hospitals can expect a return on investment in less than 18 months.”

Going forward

RST has many other potential hospital robotic applica- tions in development, including an inspection application to make sure instruments open and close properly, are sharp and can cut. Other RST applications include an OR surgical assistant that can assist the surgeon by handing him/her the instruments he/she requires by utilizing a voice-recognition system.

There are at least 5,800 hospitals in the U.S. alone that could benefi t from this technology. A pilot program is in progress at a prominent New York hospital.


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