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Virtual Incision robot

Virtual Incision Corp. said its miniaturized robotically assisted surgical device has been used for the first time in a surgery.

A Lincoln-based company says its medical robot was used in what is believed to be a first-of-its kind surgery.

Virtual Incision Corp. said in a news release that its miniaturized robotically assisted surgical device was used in a series of colon resection procedures in Asunción, Paraguay, as part of a safety and feasibility trial for the technology. The surgeries were successful and the patients are recovering well, the company said.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time an active miniaturized robot has performed complex surgical tasks with the robot inside a living human, which is a significant milestone in robotics and in surgery,” Shane Farritor, Virtual Incision’s co-founder and chief technical officer, said in the news release.

Colon resections are surgical procedures used to treat patients with lower gastrointestinal diseases. These diseases include diverticulitis, colon polyps that are too large to be removed endoscopically, precancerous and cancerous lesions of the colon and inflammatory bowel disease. More than 2 million are performed every year, more than two-thirds of which require invasive open surgeries.

Virtual Incision's device is inserted into the abdomen via a small incision and controlled by a surgeon at a bedside console.

Farritor, a professor of engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, founded the company with Dr. Dmitry Oleynikov, a professor of surgery at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, in 2006.

Last August, the company got an $11.2 million venture capital investment, and in January it moved its office to Nebraska Innovation Campus. One of the main purposes of the venture capital investment was to help pay for a feasibility study.

The surgical device is still in the investigation phase and is not yet available, but John Murphy, Virtual Incision's CEO, who is based in Pleasanton, California, said in the release that the successful completion of the feasibility study is a "key milestone and a great foundation" as the company works toward Food and Drug Administration approval to use the device in the U.S.

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Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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