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Small, Wireless Capsule Restores Surgeons’ Sense Of Touch During Minimally-Invasive Surgeries

Wed, 10/16/2013 - 10:56am

A small, wireless capsule has been developed that can restore the sense of touch that surgeons are losing as they shift increasingly from open to minimally-invasive surgery.

During open surgery, doctors rely on their sense of touch to identify the edges of hidden tumors and to locate hidden blood vessels and other anatomical structures: a procedure they call palpation. But this practice is not possible in minimally-invasive surgery where surgeons work with small, specialized tools and miniature cameras that fit through small incisions in a patient’s skin.

In order to provide the benefits of palpation to minimally-invasive surgery, a team of engineers and doctors at Vanderbilt University headed by Pietro Valdastri, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and medicine, has designed a special-purpose wireless capsule equipped with a pressure sensor that fits through the small ports that surgeons use for what is also called “keyhole” surgery.

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