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New software helps design multi-task, jaw-like, surgical mini-tools

University Park, Pa. --- Penn State engineers have developed new design software and are using it, in cooperation with surgeons from the University's College of Medicine, to develop new multi-task surgical tools that look like tiny jaws but will be able to bend around obstructions.

Dr. Mary Frecker, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and software team leader, says, "The new software doesn't replace a designer's intuition and experience but suggests a topology or layout based on the designer's specifications and the physical size constraints for the objective. Our software was specifically developed to aid in designing instruments that do more than one thing. Although some topology optimization software is used in industry, we're not aware of any, besides ours, for designing multi-task instruments."

Working with Dr. Randy S. Haluck, director of surgical simulation and minimally invasive surgery (MIS), and others at Penn State's Hershey Medical Center, the team has used the software to develop a design for a single MIS instrument that can grasp, cut, pivot and bend around obstructions.

In minimally invasive surgery, which is also known as laparoscopy or endoscopy, a video camera and long slender surgical tools are inserted through small incisions or ports in the body. The smaller incisions cause fewer traumas and decrease postoperative pain, recovery time, and mortality. However, current MIS surgical tools give surgeons limited tactile feedback and dexterity.

Frecker says, "The surgeons complain that using the existing tools is like doing surgery with chopsticks."

Haluck explains that, since most existing MIS tools are single function instruments, the surgeon must constantly withdraw and re-insert new tools. Continually switching instruments can lengthen time in operation and compromise safety.

To find common patterns of instrument exchange, the Penn State team studied videotapes of 29 surgical procedures and identified
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Contact: Barbara Hale
aem1@psu.edu
814-865-9481
Penn State
19-Feb-2002


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