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A Safety Improvement for Laparoscopic Surgery

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 3:43pm

All any surgeon wants in the operating room is for the surgery to go as smoothly and successfully as possible. Although laparoscopic surgery is considered a minimally invasive surgery (MIS), there is still some risk, such as accidentally over-puncturing and hitting a vital organ with the trocar.

Nikolai Begg, a PhD candidate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has identified this as a major issue and has engineered a way to overcome it. When a traditional trocar is used, the surgeon applies force to penetrate the layer of tissue. However, once the trocar has breached a specific tissue layer, the surgeon experiences a decrease in resistance. With the decrease of resistance and the same force applied, the trocar can potentially accelerate and puncture internal organs. By studying the physics behind a puncture, Beggs designed a device using simple principles of friction and a spring to make this part of a surgical procedure safer.

The device works with a pre-locking device that holds the scalpel blade or trocar-like tip in place until pressure is further applied. While the tip is in the midst of puncturing through the layer of tissue, the internal mechanisms wedge onto the sides and create a frictional force that locks it into place. Once the tip has broken through, the tension is released as no normal force acts upon the tip, and the spring pulls the tip back into its blunt sheath.

Beggs also describes this device to not only be relevant towards laparoscopic surgery, but also any other medical discipline that involves similar puncturing techniques.

From the patent application: “Although the disclosed retraction mechanisms are intended for a trocar in a surgical procedure, the principles of the invention have wide applicability. In a surgical context, any puncture-access device may employ similar techniques to prevent over-puncture, including a Veress needle, a venous access needle for catheter placement, an epidural or spinal tap needle, and a lung puncture device to correct a collapsed lung.”

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