Haptic Feedback in the Da Vinci Surgical System

The Da Vinci Surgical System is a robot built by Intuitive Surgical. After being approved for use by the FDA in 2000, it has been adopted by surgeons performing a wide range of minimally invasive procedures, including prostatectomies, cardiac valve repair, and gynecologic procedures. As of June 30, 2014, approximately 3,100 Da Vinci robots were installed worldwide, with each unit costing roughly $2 million. The primary innovation of the Da Vinci system is the surgeon’s console: an immersive visualization system that takes an ordinary laparoscopic image and projects it to a binocular display, enhancing the dexterity with which a surgeon can perform several procedures. For the patient, the Da Vinci system typically provides a reduced amount of pain and blood loss, frequently resulting in a shorter hospital stay and faster recovery period.

The Da Vinci provides surgeons with haptic feedback as they perform a surgery, but utilizes sensory substitution to display the information through visual cues. Ideally, tactile feedback from the device would render the exact applied forces and tissue deflections resulting from the surgical procedure. Even though the haptic feedback is displayed visually (a form of tactile-visual sensory substitution), it can still augment a surgeon’s performance. A 2004 study demonstrated significantly greater and more consistent tensions applied to suture materials, without breakage, during robotic knot tying enhanced with sensory substituted feedback compared to knots tied without feedback [1]. Further research is warranted to engineer surgical robots that provide direct kinesthetic feedback to the user’s hands [2].

[1] Bethea, B. T., Okamura, A. M., Kitagawa, M., Fitton, T. P., Cattaneo, S. M., Gott, V. L., … & Yuh, D. D. (2004). Application of haptic feedback to robotic surgery. Journal of Laparoendoscopic & Advanced Surgical Techniques, 14(3), 191-195.
[2] Okamura AM. Haptic Feedback in Robot-Assisted Minimally Invasive Surgery. Current opinion in urology. 2009;19(1):102-107. doi:10.1097/MOU.0b013e32831a478c.

Author: Shantanu Bala

Shantanu Bala graduated from Arizona State University in 2014 with a double B.S. in Computer Science and Psychology.

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