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Surgical Instrument Force Sensing and Feedback with Appplication to Retinal Surgery

Surgical Instrument Force Sensing and Feedback with Appplication to Retinal Surgery


Outline, including interdisciplinary dimension

Goal: To demonstrate how multi-sensorial feedback (haptics, audio, etc.) can assist the process of retinal surgery in three main ways: 1) provide the surgeon with information about forces experienced at the retinal operating site and at the sclera trocar site, 2) provide force scaling as a procedure is carried out.

Robotic and robot assisted surgery is increasing in popularity but the benefits of haptic and other forms of sensorial feedback from sensors embedded on the operating instruments have not been fully established. Recent research demonstrates that the effect of haptic and tactile sensing in robot assisted surgery is currently a very active research topic. However we will go beyond the state of the art presented in their work by using the information that can be recovered from sophisticated sensors and attached to the operating instrument tip and trocar entry ports.  So for the first time, sensorial information will be fed back to the surgeon from two points. Our aim will be to develop smart instruments for use by the surgeon and dropping the need for a robot assistant.   In order to do this successfully we aim to answer the fundamental research question: Is there a way of presenting force sensor data from the operating site to a surgeon performing surgery on the retina of the eye, so that it enhances the safety of the procedure for the patient? If yes, then what is the best and most natural way for the surgeon to perceive this information?

To answer this question we will make use of BAXTOR robots that are currently available with the Responsive Environments Laboratory at QUB.  We will develop prototype instruments and interact with Virtual Eye Models to develop the sensing capabilities of the instruments.  Input from Dr Tosi (International Partner) will help in the development of these instruments.  Once the haptic and other sensorial feedback has been quantitatively assessed we will qualitatively assess it with our clinical partner Prof Lois using chicken eggs.

Key words/descriptors

smart surgical instruments, assisted surgery, multisensory feedback

First supervisor

Dr Karen Rafferty - School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Second and third supervisor from a complementary discipline

Dr Stuart Ferguson - School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Professor Noemi Lois - Centre for Experimental Medicine

Supervisors’ track record of PhD completions, plus excellence and international standing in the project area

Current: 5 PhD Students


1. James Niblock, PhD, Graduated July 2008.

2. Kyra McKenna, PhD, Graduated July 2008.

3. Alison McArdle, PhD, Graduated July 2010.

4. Shyama Prosad Chowdhury, Graduated July 2012.

5. Ian Mack, PhD, Graduated July 2012.

6. Holly Grimes, MPhil, Graduated July 2011

PDRAs Supervised:

1.         Dr Minxing Hu, September 2004 – February 2006

2.         Dr Philip Strain, October 2008 – April 2009

3.         Dr Paul Kelly, May 2009

4.         Dr Victoria Stewart

5.         Dr Jian-Xun Peng, October 2005

Intersectoral exposure and/or international mobility

(e.g. secondments to/collaboration with partner organizations)

External consultancies

•           Expert Evaluator for Irish Research Council Postgraduate Inner International Assessment Board (IAB) 2013.

•           Expert Evaluator for the EU Framework 7 EC Future and Emerging Technologies Open Scheme (FET-Open) 2012.

•           Expert Consultant and Peer Reviewer for National Research Council of Canada (NRC) for the 5th Phase of the Genomics and Health Initiative (GHI) 2010.

•           Expert Consultant and evaluator for Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET) Embark Scholarship Scheme 2010.

•           Expert Consultant and evaluator for the Marie Curie Awards for the EU Framework 6 and 7 programs (2006,2007,2008).

•           Consultant and evaluator for the City University of China Internal Research Grant Awards (2007).

•           Project Evaluator for Enterprise Ireland’s Technology Commercialisation Fund (2007 & 2008).

Major National/International advisory board memberships.

•           Member of the IET Northern Ireland Policy Panel (2011 – 2012)

Learned societies committee membership/role

•           Chairperson of IET Northern Ireland Network Committee (2011-2012)

•           Vice Chairperson of IET Northern Ireland Network Committee (2010-2011)

1. Joint PI for QUB, Haptic, Audio and Visual Interfaces for Maps and Location Based Services (HAPTIMAP), Seventh Framework programme Theme 3 - Information and Communication Technologies, Total of 6.6M Euro Awarded, QUB share 620,192 Euro. 2008 - 2013. (310k Euro to Dr Rafferty).  The HaptiMap project is aimed at making maps and location based services more accessible by using several senses like touch, hearing and vision. Many of the techniques developed within this grant can be applied to TELERETI.

2. PI, "Brightness Evaluation and Measurement (with application to airport lighting)", EPSRC, EP/DO5902X/1, £126k, Oct 2006 - Sep 2009. Industrial Partner: Flight Precision Ltd. Since I was the PI on this grant, lead the RA employed under this grant, and to ensure we were both working in the right direction to achieve all the deliverables of the project. We delivered 1 book chapter, 3 journals, 5 conference papers, 2 invited presentations and 2 invited articles.

3. A team member on Temporal Enhancement of Motor Performance Using Sensory Guides (TEMPUS-G), European Research Council, Craig C*, O'Modhrain S, McMenemy K, Ferguson S, Total of £642,604 awarded to QUB, May 2008 for 5 yrs.  No specific funding allocated to team members. TEMPUS-G uses theories about how the brain controls self-paced movements as a basis for designing sensory devices (visual, acoustic and haptic). The potential beneficial effects of using these devices will be tried and tested in both a sports (e.g. golf) and rehabilitative (e.g. stroke) context. To date, we have developed a visual guide using a programmable LED display that can be used in the context of speeding movements in patients with Parkinson‘s disease for the purpose of enhancing mobility. The skills developed as part of this project can be exploited in TELERETI during the development of interface development for providing stimuli.

Describe briefly the international profile of the partner

Daniele Tosi

Assistant Professor

Nazarbayev University, School of Engineering

(Will provide input on fibre briggs sensors to be incorporated on surgical instruements)

Marie Curie IEF Fellow, University of Limerick (Limerick, IRL) – 09/2012 to present.

• Scientist in charge for PROBESENS project: development of pressure/temperature probes for

innovative detection of bladder outlet obstruction in urodynamics.

• Development of pressure + temperature optical fiber probe with biocompatible design and record

0.06 mmHg pressure accuracy.

• Development of fiber-optic probes for thermal ablation: pressure/temperature probe for

encapsulated tumors, ultra-dense distributed temperature dosimetry detection.

• Live demonstrations at Cleveland Clinics (US), Federico II Urologic Clinic (ITA), IRCCS

Policlinico San Matteo (ITA) – validation in-vivo and ex-vivo.

• Project scouting and fundraising; licensing/commercialization; industrial partnerships.

Test Engineer, Sensornet (Elstree, UK) – 08/2011 to 02/2012.

• Responsible for test, QA, and delivery of fiber-optic distributed temperature sensors.

• Increased first-pass benchmark from 45% to 85%; reduced building time from 24PH to 20PH p.u.

• Interfaced with oil&gas customers for installation and development of advanced features.

Training that will be provided through the research project itself

This PhD programme will provide the opportunity to acquire an extensive training in research techniques related to haptics and programming, to develop and refine the appropriate research skills and to carry out significant, high quality, original research.  PhD Students can avail of a wealth of training and development courses.  I will review these courses with the student at the start of each academic year and we can determine together the most relevant and useful.

Examples of additional training in non-research transferable skills

PhD students can avail of Staff Development Funds to enhance non-transferable skills.  I will ask the PhD student to attend the two day Media Skills training course.

They will also be asked to undertake some undergraduate supervision of labs and tutorials.

Expected dissemination of results: peer-reviewed journals, seminars, workshop and conferences at European/international level

(e.g. public talks, visits to schools, open days, QUB impact showcase)

IEEE Sensors Conference

European Workshop on Optical Fibre Sensors at


Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics Europe,

IEEE Int. Conf. on Robotics and Automation

Conf. of the IEEE

Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society


Regular public dissemination of overview results on the usual social media outlets.

Expected impact activities

(e.g. public talks, visits to schools, open days, QUB impact showcase)

Evaluation of the technology impact on the marketplace; outline of the medical robotics competitive landscape, identification of competitive advantages, and preparation of the value proposition. Analysis from the end-user perspective will include: quantification of the learning curve from surgeons; and estimation of the early adoption rate. The ultimate goal of this activity is to successfully position this research leading to sensorial assistive surgical instruments.