Getting A Grip On Robot-Assisted Surgery

Surgeon’s fatigue during robot-assisted surgery could become a thing of the past with a controller developed by scientists in Japan.

AsianScientist (Mar. 4, 2020) – Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech), Japan, have designed an ergonomic controller for robotic surgery. They published their findings in The International Journal of Medical Robotics and Computer Assisted Surgery.

Robotics has weaved its way into many different fields, and medicine is no exception. Robot-assisted surgery has advanced dramatically over the past decade in almost every surgical subspecialty, and it is usually performed using surgical robot systems that involve a master-slave configuration.

The ‘master’ is a controller device that the surgeon manipulates to control a robotic arm. Such systems improve the dexterity and precision of surgeons by filtering out hand tremors and scaling their hand motions into smaller movements. They also reduce the risk of common surgical complications such as surgical site infection.

However, robot-assisted surgery comes with its own disadvantages, especially for the person performing the surgery. Robotic surgeons sometimes feel physical discomfort during surgery, with finger fatigue being common. Seeking to alleviate surgeons’ fatigue, researchers led by Mr. Solmon Jeong and Dr. Kotaro Tadano at Tokyo Tech, developed a ‘master’ that allows for two different gripping styles—the pinch and the power grip.

“In robotic surgery, the limitations of the two conventional gripping methods are strongly related to the advantages and disadvantages of each gripping type. Thus, we wanted to investigate whether a combined gripping method can improve the manipulation performance during robotic surgery, as this can leverage the advantages of both gripping types while compensating for their disadvantages,” said Tadano.

After a proof-of-concept experiment that yielded promising results, the researchers designed a robotic surgery system with a modular master controller that could be adjusted to employ either pinch, power or combined gripping. The system was tested through a pointing experiment, in which 15 participants had to control a robotic arm to bring the tip of a needle into target holes in the least amount of time without touching obstacles.

Various conditions were tested for each gripping type, such as the use of arm and palm rests, use of handle, gripping type and pinch grip motion. The findings showed that the combined grip yielded better performance in the pointing experiment on various fronts, including number of failures (touching an obstacle), time required and overall length of the movements performed to reach the targets. Many participants also reported to prefer the combined gripping method over the other two, owing to the ease and comfort in using this method.

“The manipulating method of master controllers for robotic surgery has a significant influence in terms of intuitiveness, comfort, precision and stability. In addition to enabling precise operation, a comfortable manipulating method could potentially benefit both the patient and the surgeon,” Tadano explained.

The article can be found at: Jeong & Tadano (2020) Manipulation of a Master Manipulator With a Combined‐grip‐handle of Pinch and Power Grips.


Source: Tokyo Institute of Technology; Photo: Shutterstock.
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