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New Robotic Surgical System Offers a Sense of Touch

Tactile feedback allows a surgeon to differentiate between tissues and to ‘feel’ delicate tissues weakened by infection or inflammation.

Herosurg Robot Robotic Surgery Surgical System Lg 57f26e460822b

Deakin University had developed a robotic surgical system that will give surgeons a sense of touch while conducting delicate procedures.

The HeroSurg robot is the brainchild of Deakin’s Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation (IISRI) in collaboration with Harvard University and Deakin’s School of Medicine, was unveiled at the Australasian Simulation Congress, hosted by Simulation Australasia, at the Melbourne Convention Centre.

HeroSurg was developed by engineers from Deakin and Harvard, along with Professor Suren Krishnan, who in 2008 became the first Australian surgeon to use the current available da Vinci robotic surgical system for ear, nose and throat procedures.

Professor Krishnan, from the Royal Adelaide Hospital and an Honorary Professor at IISRI, said HeroSurg’s addition of the sense of touch, provided through technology known as haptic feedback, would lead to better patient outcomes. “The major drawback of the current system is the lack of tactile feedback,” Professor Krishnan said.

“Tactile feedback allows a surgeon to differentiate between tissues and to ‘feel’ delicate tissues weakened by infection or inflammation and dissect them more carefully. Tactile feedback will allow us to use finer and more delicate sutures in microsurgery.”

Professor Krishnan said the haptics technology would also improve the ability to distinguish between tissues involved with cancer from normal tissue.

The project’s lead researcher and haptics expert, Dr Mohsen Moradi Dalvand, who recently spent two years at Harvard University as a visiting scholar, said the haptic feedback improved safety and allowed specific maneuvers and diagnoses. “HeroSurg’s unique features which allow it to overcome many of the limitations of existing robotic laparoscopic systems, include collision avoidance capability, modularity and automatic patient/bed adjustment,” Dr Dalvand said. “The automatic collision avoidance enables surgeons to operate with peace of mind and confidence that there will be no collision with instruments, the robot’s arms, or the laparoscope with the patient.”

Other unique HeroSurg features include high-resolution 3D images, an increased range of motion for the surgeon, and a more ergonomic workstation console.

IISRI Director Professor Saeid Nahavandi said HeroSurg could be used remotely, with the surgeon potentially thousands of miles away from the actual operating room.

The technology was created with collaboration from the University’s School of Medicine. After laboratory testing in partnership with medical experts, the project is ready for human trials. It builds on recent work from IISRI that has enabled ultrasounds to be completed by medical professionals by remote, also using haptics technology.

Minimally invasive robotic surgery has become popular with surgeons, patients and insurance companies. Much smaller incisions result in reduced pain and risk of infection, better post-operative immune function, shorter hospital stays and quicker recovery.

HeroSurg project collaborators included IISRI Director Professor Saeid Nahavandi, Harvard University Harvard Biorobotics Laboratory Professor Robert Howe, Professor Suren Krishnan and Deakin School of Medicine Associate Professor Glenn Guest.

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