Abstract

The implementation of telemanipulator systems for cardiac surgery enabled heart surgeons to perform delicate minimally invasive procedures with high precision under stereoscopic view. At present, commercially available systems do not provide force-feedback or Cartesian control for the operating surgeon. The lack of haptic feedback may cause damage to tissue and can cause breaks of suture material. In addition, minimally invasive procedures are very tiring for the surgeon due to the need for visual compensation for the missing force feedback. While a lack of Cartesian control of the end effectors is acceptable for surgeons (because every movement is visually supervised), it prevents research on partial automation. In order to improve this situation, we have built an experimental telemanipulator for endoscopic surgery that provides both force-feedback (in order to improve the feeling of immersion) and Cartesian control as a prerequisite for automation. In this article, we focus on the inclusion of force feedback and its evaluation. We completed our first bimanual system in early 2003 (EndoPAR Endoscopic Partial Autonomous Robot). Each robot arm consists of a standard robot and a surgical instrument, hence providing eight DOF that enable free manipulation via trocar kinematics. Based on the experience with this system, we introduced an improved version in early 2005. The new ARAMIS system (Autonomous Robot Assisted Minimally Invasive Surgery) has four multi-purpose robotic arms mounted on a gantry above the working space. Again, the arms are controlled by two force-feedback devices, and 3D vision is provided. In addition, all surgical instruments have been equipped with strain gauge force sensors that can measure forces along all translational directions of the instrument's shaft. Force-feedback of this system was evaluated in a scenario of robotic heart surgery, which offers an impression very similar to the standard, open procedures with high immersion. It enables the surgeon to palpate arteriosclerosis, to tie surgical knots with real suture material, and to feel the rupture of suture material. Therefore, the hypothesis that haptic feedback in the form of sensory substitution facilitates performance of surgical tasks was evaluated on the experimental platform described in the article (on the EndoPAR version). In addition, a further hypothesis was explored: The high fatigue of surgeons during and after robotic operations may be caused by visual compensation due to the lack of force-feedback (Thompson, J., Ottensmeier, M., & Sheridan, T. 1999. Human Factors in Telesurgery, Telmed Journal, 5 (2) 129–137.).

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