New technology enables keyhole surgeons to 'feel'

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A team of researchers from Leeds University in the UK have developed an innovative new technology which enables surgeons to ‘feel tissues and tum...

A team of researchers from Leeds University in the UK have developed an innovative new technology which enables surgeons to ‘feel’ tissues and tumours during keyhole surgery.

The pioneering team have created a computer generated virtual operating environment, currently known as ‘Palpatronix’, which provides surgeons with sensory haptic feedback.

Pressure is applied to a handheld device, one of the main components of the new technology, in accordance to what the surgical devices are touching, therefore allowing surgeons to ‘feel’ what they are operating on.  

There are now hopes the development will aid cancer surgeons during future keyhole procedures as feeling tumours can help them to determine if they are malignant or benign.

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While keyhole surgery is fairly beneficial for patients as it reduces the risk of complications and speeds up recovery, surgeons just have to rely on sight during procedures.

One of the students that developed the product, Earle Jamieson, said in a media interview: “Haptic devices that give users sensory feedback are becoming more common in surgery, but none of them quite match that true hands-on feeling.

“With our system, users can interact with the tissue they are operating on throughout the surgical procedure.”

Meanwhile, the project supervisor Dr Peter Culmer, commented: “Judging from the feedback the students have received from practising surgeons, this system has real, clinical potential.”

He added: “In the short-term, it could be used as a training tool to help surgeons get a feel for keyhole surgery – quite literally.

“Looking further ahead, systems such as this could become used in operating theatres on a daily basis.”

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