Investigating a Cooperative System of Sensing and Transmitting Haptic Feedback of Soft Tissue for Robotic Surgical Applications
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Robotic-Assisted Surgery (RAS) improves upon traditional minimally invasive (MIS) and open surgical techniques by maintaining the benefits of MIS while also providing surgeons with a wider range of motion, increased depth perception, and control for tremors. However, an inherent limitation of the technology is that surgeons performing RAS must rely solely on visual feedback and lose the sense of touch. This creates a steep learning curve for the technique. Previous literature and results from our own survey of 15 surgeons using RAS suggests that the introduction of haptic feedback to RAS will improve overall patient outcomes as well as decrease error rates and operating times for surgeons. To address this, we proposed a proof-of-concept addition to RAS systems that relays the firmness of soft tissue to surgeons. We constructed a probe containing a force-sensitive resistor (FSR) to collect information on silicone samples of known varying firmness that mimic soft tissue. From the FSR, currents were generated and amplified into a solenoid actuator. By pressing on the actuator, the user feels a force corresponding to the firmness of the silicone. Preliminary testing of the integrated feedback system indicated that users were able to successfully distinguish between varying silicone firmnesses with an average accuracy of 38.89%. More testing is needed to further evaluate the system’s effectiveness and correct errors in initial test protocols.
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