Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Electrical and Computer Engineering


Dr. Rajni Patel


The reduced access conditions present in Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS) affect the feel of interaction forces between the instruments and the tissue being treated. This loss of haptic information compromises the safety of the procedure and must be overcome through training. Haptics in MIS is the subject of extensive research, focused on establishing force feedback mechanisms and developing appropriate sensors. This latter task is complicated by the need to place the sensors as close as possible to the instrument tip, as the measurement of forces outside of the patient's body does not represent the true tool--tissue interaction. Many force sensors have been proposed, but none are yet available for surgery. The objectives of this thesis were to develop a set of instruments capable of measuring tool--tissue force information in MIS, and to evaluate the usefulness of force information during surgery and for training and skills assessment. To address these objectives, a set of laparoscopic instruments was developed that can measure instrument position and tool--tissue interaction forces in multiple degrees of freedom. Different design iterations and the work performed towards the development of a sterilizable instrument are presented. Several experiments were performed using these instruments to establish the usefulness of force information in surgery and training. The results showed that the combination of force and position information can be used in the development of realistic tissue models or haptic interfaces specifically designed for MIS. This information is also valuable in order to create tactile maps to assist in the identification of areas of different stiffness. The real-time measurement of forces allows visual force feedback to be presented to the surgeon. When applied to training scenarios, the results show that experience level correlates better with force-based metrics than those currently used in training simulators. The proposed metrics can be automatically computed, are completely objective, and measure important aspects of performance. The primary contribution of this thesis is the design and development of highly versatile instruments capable of measuring force and position during surgery. A second contribution establishes the importance and usefulness of force data during skills assessment, training and surgery.