Minimally-invasive and laparoscopic surgery has helped to reduce the risk of infection and uncontrolled bleeding, and improve post-procedure recovery time, the technique has its drawbacks. In comparison to open surgeries where surgeons use smaller instruments to manually manipulate tissue, laparoscopic tools put surgeons at a distance from the part of the body being operated on, making it difficult for them to determine how much pressure they’re applying.
To address this issue, Canadian medical device company SensOR Medical Laboratories has developed a force-sensing skin designed to be applied to existing surgical tools and provide feedback to the surgeon. Forces exerted by the tip of the laparoscopic instrument are measured by ForceFilm and relayed to the surgical display in the operating room.
“Our ultimate goal is to improve surgical safety,” said Dr. Robert Brooks, CEO and co-founder of SensOR Medical Laboratories. “Medical error is the third largest cause of death. Up to 12 percent of medical error is caused by the inappropriate application of force in surgery.”
ForceFilm can be applied, and subsequently removed, from any laparoscopic tool. What’s more, the technology allows multiple tools to be monitored at the same time, allowing surgeons to make decisions regarding the appropriate level of applied force during a given procedure.
“Our technology is unique in that it is the only force-sensing technology that can be added to any make or model of surgical instrument and doesn’t modify surgical or hospital workflow,” said Brooks.
The ForceLink component of SensOR’s technology electronically records the pressure data collected by ForceFilm and uses Bluetooth to transmit that data to the surgical display in real-time. The electronics case surrounding the ForceLink instrument can also withstand the high temperatures in an autoclave, allowing the surgical tools to properly sterilized between procedures.
“SensOR will be expanding to utilize machine learning in order to recognize the specific surgical operation and site,” said Brooks. “This will allow the surgeon to get both their historical force data as well as known safe force limits for the exact tissue, instrument, and operation they’re performing in real-time.”
Brooks and his team also say that their ForceFilm technology can help to accelerate the training process for medical residents. The company is interested in expanding partnerships with surgical programs in the US to support new surgeons learning how to perform laparoscopic surgery.