Tactile tool that makes surgeons feel what they can’t touch

Tactile tool that makes surgeons feel what they can’t touch
  • A team of researchers has developed a simple but effective tool for on-demand touch detection in minimally invasive surgery.
  • Overcoming a key limitation: the inability of surgeons to “feel” the tissues during an operation.
  • The prototype has already been tested in the laboratory with the help of MIS CCAD surgeons using different soft and hard tissues.

A team of researchers from the NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) has developed a simple but effective tool for touch sensing on demand in minimally invasive surgeryovercoming a key limitation: the inability of surgeons to “feel” the tissues during an operation.

Researchers have already successfully tested the effectiveness of their new tool

Researchers at the NYUAD Advanced Microfluidics and Microdevices Laboratory (AMMLab) successfully tested the efficacy of their new toolwhich uses standard sensors embedded in a laparoscopic forceps, with the help of surgeons from the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi (CCAD).

Minimally invasive surgery (MIS), also known as has many advantages. Nevertheless, offers surgeons a limited field of vision and no ability to “feel” the relative differences and stiffness of the tissues during the operation. Therefore, MIS operations are associated with the “loss of sense of touch” dilemma for surgeons.

In a new study titled “Stiffness Assessment and Lump Detection in Minimally Invasive Surgery Using In-house Developed Smart Laparoscopic Forceps” at the IEEE Journal of Translational Engineering in Health and Medicinethe researchers describe how they incorporated a system of commercially available sensors into laparoscopic instruments to develop their Intelligent Laparoscopic Forceps (SLF).

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The prototype was tested in the laboratory with the help of surgeons

The prototype was tested in the laboratory with the help of MIS CCAD surgeons using different soft and hard tissuesincluding home samples with known stiffness, raw and cooked chicken meat samples, as well as sheep samples of digestive organs, including stomach and intestine.

The results showed that the developed tool significantly helped them to accurately classify the different samples based on their stiffness. Furthermore, the developed tool was able to identify hidden embedded lumps within these samples, demonstrating the ability to provide surgeons with tactile feedback information including gripping forces, organ stiffness, and presence of embedded bulges.

“During open surgeries, surgeons use their fingers to interact with internal tissues and organs, providing them with tactile feedback that informs surgical decisions in real time,” said Wael Othman, a mechanical engineering doctoral candidate and first author of the study.

“But open surgeries come with costs, including the need for significant incisions and potentially serious consequences, including pain, risk of infection, and long recovery times. Our approach is exciting because it gives surgeons similar tactile feedback that has not been available in minimally invasive surgery until now.”

“While the current prototype serves as proof of concept, our future work will focus on developing an even more precise ability to mechanically discern subtle differences in tissue stiffness and texture and, in collaboration with our colleagues at CCAD, we plan to conduct experiments with samples that represent better human organs,” said Qasaimeh.

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