A system for robotic heart surgery that learns to tie knots using recurrent neural networks

Hermann Mayer, Faustino Gomez, Daan Wierstra, Istvan Nagy, Alois Knoll, Jürgen Schmidhuber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Tying suture knots is a time-consuming task performed frequently during minimally invasive surgery (MIS). Automating this task could greatly reduce total surgery time for patients. Current solutions to this problem replay manually programmed trajectories, but a more general and robust approach is to use supervised machine learning to smooth surgeon-given training trajectories and generalize from them. Since knot tying generally requires a controller with internal memory to distinguish between identical inputs that require different actions at different points along a trajectory, it would be impossible to teach the system using traditional feedforward neural nets or support vector machines. Instead we exploit more powerful, recurrent neural networks (RNNs) with adaptive internal states. Results obtained using long short-term memory RNNs trained by the recent Evolino algorithm show that this approach can significantly increase the efficiency of suture knot tying in MIS over preprogrammed control. © 2008 VSP.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1521-1537
Number of pages17
JournalAdvanced Robotics
Issue number13-14
StatePublished - Sep 1 2008
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Generated from Scopus record by KAUST IRTS on 2022-09-14

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Software
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Human-Computer Interaction


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