It’s no secret: minimally invasive surgeries (MIS) are on the rise. The tools used during these advanced scope-based procedures provide little tactile feedback that surgeons used to experience in open surgeries. Working at a distance means it is hard to gauge the force being applied to tissues. The founders at SensOR Medical Laboratories, a medical device start-up based out of Toronto, Canada, saw this as an opportunity and developed an innovative force-sensing electronic skin, called ForceFilm, that augments the existing tools surgeons use to provide a sense of touch.
“Our ultimate goal is to improve surgical safety. Medical error is the third largest cause of death. Up to 12% of medical error is caused by the inappropriate application of force in surgery.” says CEO and co-founder Dr. Robert Brooks.
The force sensing system fits onto any laparoscopic tool and can be removed without damaging the original tool. Force data measured with multiple strain gauges at the end of the tool is streamed wirelessly in real-time and displayed as an intuitive visual feedback that is overlaid onto the endoscopic monitor. Multiple tools (e.g. one instrument in each hand) can be monitored simultaneously. This allows surgeons to quickly “feel” what a safe level of applied force is when they are performing simulated surgical procedures.
The current product is user friendly and reliable, and this required overcoming a number of technological challenges. For example, a primary design parameter was making the device as unobtrusive to the surgeon as possible while not compromising the original function of the tool. This was achieved by designing a low-profile, light weight, and wireless device that allows the tool to fit through the trocar (an access port inserted into the surgical site to allow tools to be inserted and removed easily). High quality materials and electronics were chosen to provide high accuracy and precision force data over time while withstanding repeated autoclave sterilization.
One of the keys that accelerated development was the team’s close collaboration with surgeons from the beginning. Input provided by experts from six different surgical specialties was incorporated throughout the product development cycle. These relationships allowed for new prototype iterations to be evaluated and validated quickly. The hard work is starting to pay off as the patent pending technology has given SensOR Medical Labs a competitive edge in the market. “Our technology is unique in that it is the only force-sensing technology that can be added to any make or model of surgical instrument and doesn’t modifying surgical or hospital workflow,” says Dr. Brooks.
New surgeons require thousands of hours of hands on experience to learn how to handle tissues and perform complex maneuvers in MIS. SensOR Medical plans to continue its growth and develop partnerships with surgical programs across North America to help them train the next generation of surgeons faster and better.
Brooks explained some of the exciting next steps SensOR plans to take their technology. “SensOR will be expanding to utilize machine learning in order to recognize the specific surgical operation and site. This will allow the surgeon to get both their historical force data as well as known safe force limits for the exact tissue, instrument, and operation they’re performing in real-time.” Future work will also include expanding their ForceFilm technology to all tools in the surgical tray and to seek regulatory approval for clinical use.
SensOR’s platform will aide in reducing medical errors associated with MIS, potentially making surgery safer for millions of patients.
Here is a video demonstrating SensOR’s award winning (James Dyson Award for Canada) ForceFilm technology:
Link: SensOR homepage…