Future Spotlight: Robot-Assisted Injection

By Shannon Kilgariff / 11 Dec 2020

Aesthetics speaks to Dr Emmanuel Elard about the future of robots for botulinum toxin injections

Can you even imagine a world where a robot injects your patient for you? It sounds surreal, doesn’t it… even impossible. But according to French aesthetic practitioner Dr Emmanuel Elard, founder and CEO of technology company NextMotion, the concept isn’t far from reality. He has pioneered technology that he says can and will have the capability to inject your patients with botulinum toxin and dermal filler for you, potentially changing the injectable landscape as we know it. It’s called Light Enabled Neuro-robotic Arm (LENA),1 and here we speak to Dr Elard about the evolution of this robot-assisted injection technology and when it might come to market.

Why robotics?

Robot-assisted surgery is already being used in other areas of medicine such as ophthalmology,2 with study findings indicating advantages of robotics over manual procedures during retinal surgery.3 According to Dr Elard, much like the robotics used in ophthalmology, he believes robot-assisted injection technology can help to implement safe and extremely precise treatments for optimum patient satisfaction in aesthetics. “It’s all about precision, consistency and reproducibility,” Dr Elard explains. “When you look at aesthetic injectable treatments, one of the issues we face as practitioners is that it’s impossible to treat a patient in the exact same way as you did the time before, following the exact same parameters such as pressure, technique, location, depth and amount, and this can make your patients have varying results,” he says, explaining, “All patient are different and you can’t inject everyone in the same way. With LENA, for the first time it’s possible to have very precise, tailored injection parameters and consistently achieve these time after time. If the results aren’t quite right for the patient, such as if they want a more dynamic look for a toxin treatment or the opposite, we can just easily adapt the parameters.” Dr Elard adds that he believes the technology could also create safer treatments. He says, “With more precision, this approach could be safer than a practitioner injecting, and could result in less bruising and pain and just help us offer better treatments for our patients.”

How does it work?

Firstly, as normal, the practitioner would conduct a thorough medical assessment of their patient. “As part of this assessment, the practitioner will scan their patient’s face and map it via the NextMotion App, reporting all the injections points required on the face,” explains Dr Elard, adding, “For each injection point the practitioner will input the doses, the depth of injection and the product the patient requires for their treatment. The face map and parameters are then recorded in the NextMotion system and are sent to the LENA robot. Under supervision by the practitioner, the robot is able to target the patient and analyse their face through artificial intelligence (AI) and inject the exact points as instructed during the assessment.” AI refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions.3

When asked if this technology could simply put aesthetic practitioners out of a job, Dr Elard laughs, “This is the main question aesthetic practitioners are asking about this new innovation! These aren’t crazy robots that inject all by themselves; it’s like another tool for your clinic. My vision of the future is that robots and practitioners will allow for combined skills to bring a better outcome, security and satisfaction for the patient because they will complement each other.” Dr Elard adds that the

technology could allow practitioners to perform more treatments, expanding their practice. “One practitioner could potentially supervise many different robots at once – the device could be controlled, monitored and manipulated by a qualified assistant, while the practitioner sets up the treatment plan, conducts a full consultation and supervises the treatment process.”

When asked about pricing, Dr Elard says he is aiming for the technology to be affordable. He notes, “It will cost about the same as a big laser. The goal is to have something affordable and for practitioners to be able to utilise great new technology to move the industry forward.”

The future of robot-assisted injection

According to Dr Elard, the medical certification process for LENA is currently under way and the plan is to launch the first injector robots by spring 2022. Dr Elard says, “We have validated the proof of concept and are conducting a pre-clinical study with a hospital in Paris. We have so far injected silicone face models and, through CT scans, have found that the device can inject the correct volume in the exact position requested. The next step will be testing on cadavers and working on the specifications. If everything goes well, we can expect to launch in the next two years.”

Dr Elard explains that the focus is currently on the device’s capability for administering botulinum toxin injections, but following the success of LENA for toxin, its use for injecting hyaluronic acid will be explored. “Hyaluronic acid injection is the final goal, but it requires a lot of different skills and parameters so will happen a bit later. I think it’s absolutely a possibility for the future!”

Dr Elard notes that one consideration for this technology is that both the public and industry need to be open to it. “This concept really excites me and the technology is there and is coming, but I understand that people might not be ready for it just yet. I am thinking a few years ahead in the future, but I know that this will happen in our industry! The goal is to get perfect consistency between injectors and the injections we provide to our patients. I believe this technology will improve injection precision, predictability and safety.”

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