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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Tactile Sensors for Minimally Invasive Surgical Systems

  • Author(s): Paydar, Omeed
  • Advisor(s): Candler, Robert N.
  • Grundfest, Warren
  • et al.

Minimally invasive surgery (MIS) improves patient outcomes. Operations result in smaller incisions, shorter recovery times, lower risk of infection, and reduced pain as compared to open surgery. Moreover, robotic surgical systems improve upon traditional laparoscopic tools used in MIS, including improved dexterity, tremor removal, scaled movements, and 3D visualization.

While the adoption of robotic surgical tools accelerates nationwide, these systems are characterized by an absence of touch sensation, which ultimately impedes transition of more delicate procedures. Likewise, excessive grip forces could induce tissue damage, including scar formation, hemorrhaging, perforations, and adhesions. Furthermore, without tactile information, sutures fail because of excessive tensile loads and surgeons require additional training to reach proficiency on the available surgical robots.

Although robotics addresses a subset of surgical procedures, efforts to develop and integrate multi-axis biocompatible sensor arrays with commercial robotic surgical systems remain inadequate. New tools that measure compressive sensing could prevent tissue crush injuries, while shear sensing will help reduce suture failure from excessive tensile loads. Consequently, this study investigates the development of a capacitive sensor capable of restoring touch sensation to surgeons operating robotic surgical systems.

Real-time access to operative loads could minimize robotic surgical complications, and ultimately, lead to the inclusion of more challenging (demanding) procedures. This work explores a relatively under-researched, undeveloped area of robotic surgery and the major remaining challenge. Because minimally invasive surgery (MIS), specifically robotic surgery, is becoming more prevalent [1], efforts to improve the outcomes are essential. Successful acquisition of intraoperative tactile information will fast-track acceptance of these tools and prevent unwanted patient outcomes.

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