At Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands, Eleonora Westebring-van der Putten has received her PhD for developing an interesting new grasping haptics (force feedback) interface for endoscopic and laparoscopic surgeries. In traditional procedures, how hard one presses on the instruments is directly proportional to the pressure one feels back from the tissue. It would therefore make sense to try to bring a bit of that to laparoscopic surgery.
Here’s Ms. Westebring-van der Putten explaining the functions of her controller:
“There are sensors in the tip of the instrument that measure how hard the surgeon is grasping. This information is fed back to the handle, which contains a cylinder that can turn in relation to the hand, as if something is falling out of your hand. In this way the cylinder indicates that the surgeon has too little grip, and is therefore grasping too gently.”
“The handle also contains vibrating elements, which start to vibrate if the surgeon is grasping too hard, while also taking account of how hard the surgeon is pulling. The harder he or she pulls on the tissue, the less hard he or she should grasp. We also take the type of tissue into account. After all, it makes quite a difference whether you are grasping an intestine or working with a liver.”
“By training with feedback, surgeons learn to control their laparoscopic grasp force more quickly. The forces they apply are lower.” What is more, the effect seems to last. “When the feedback signal is removed, the surgeons can still carry out the procedure with reduced force. The feedback therefore helps with the control of the laparoscopic grasp force, even if it is only used in training.”