Robot-assisted minimally invasive surgery offers improved range of motion over standard laparoscopic techniques, but is characterized by a total loss of haptic feedback, requiring surgeons to rely solely on visual clues. Visual information is sufficient for many procedures, however, it is often challenging to characterize tissues and apply appropriate forces to sutures without tactile information. Tactile feedback may also enable expansion of robotic surgery to other surgical procedures that are difficult to perform without a sense of touch. Like robotic surgery, there are various robotic applications that could be aided by the addition of tactile feedback to the operator, such as industrial and military robotics, microassembly, and space applications.
The development of a pneumatic balloon-based tactile feedback system is currently underway at CASIT. Forces are detected at the distal end of the robotic grasper via a force sensor array, and the forces from each sensor element are translated to proportional pressures that are applied to the surgeon's fingers via balloon actuator arrays. This system is currently under development for use with the Da Vinci robotic surgical system, and a reduction in grasping force has already been demonstrated using the system.
The loss of sensory tactile feedback is often referred to as one of the largest drawbacks associated with robotic surgery. The CASIT vibro-pneumatic haptic feedback system was designed as an add-on solution to this problem by providing simulated multi-modal feedback to the surgeon’s fingertips to emulate the natural sensation of touch. Testing of the device has demonstrated the capability to: reduce tissue damage from high grasping forces, diminish visual-perceptual mismatch, reduce suture failure, increase knot quality, and improve tissue characterization.
Erik Dutson, MD
Division of General Surgery
Warren Grundfest, MD
Department of Bioengineering, Electrical Engineering, Surgery
Chih-Hung (Aaron) King, PhD
Miguel Franco, MS
Adrienne Higa, MS
Christopher Wottowa, PhD