Delft Unveristy professor finds a way to give surgeons tangible feedback during delicate Laparoscopic procedures.
Laparoscopic or "keyhole" surgery has become increasingly common in recent years as it not only allows for a great deal of surgical precision but is far less invasive than traditional "open" surgical techniques. Of course it also carries risks, most notably the fact that surgeons have a far harder time gauging the amount of force they are applying to a tendon or intestine in the body.
This type of surgery already has a "threading the needle" air around it, something done only by the most skilled practitioners and still with a chance of injury to the patient. In many cases, this injury comes because the Laparoscopic tool is used to exert too much or too little pressure on what it is grasping, a problem that Delft University professor Eleonora Westebring-van der Putten is aiming to solve using a new tangible feedback instrument.
The surgical instrument would use tangible physical feedback in order to give surgeons an augmented feeling of just how much grasping, pulling and twisting they need to be doing. Owing to the long neck length of most Laparoscopic instruments, most of the actual force feedback is lost before it ever reaches a surgeon's hand, making the procedure more of a guessing game than a sure thing.
Westebring-van Der Putten's design would use both a cylinder and vibrating feedback to give surgeons an tactile indication of just what they are doing. If an intestine was being gripped too lightly, the cylinder would "roll" in the hand, giving the impression of slipping or falling off and encouraging a tighter grip.
If the grip was too hard on a tendon, the handle would vibrate to let the doctor know they needed to back off. In addition, the force feedback device would also be able to distinguish between tissue types in order to give accurate sensations based on what type of procedure was being done - some internal bodily structures need more manipulation than others.
Force feedback devices have long been used in gaming and theater experiences, and could see excellent use in medical applications as well. We can feel it.