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Robot-assisted minimally invasive surgery has gained widespread use over the past decade, but the technique is currently operated in the absence of haptic feedback during tissue manipulation. We have developed a complete tactile feedback system, consisting of a piezoresistive force sensor, control system, and pneumatic balloon tactile display, and mounted directly onto a da Vinci surgical robotic system. To evaluate the effect of tactile feedback on robotic manipulation, a group of novices (n = 16) and experts ( n = 4) were asked to perform three blocks of peg transfer tasks with the tactile feedback system in place. Force generated at the end-effectors was measured in all three blocks, but tactile feedback was active only during the middle block. All subjects used higher force when the feedback system was inactive. When active, subjects immediately used substantially less force and still maintained appropriate grip during the task. After the system was again turned off, grip force increased significantly to prefeedback levels. These results demonstrate that robotic manipulations without tactile feedback are done with more force than needed to grasp objects. Therefore, the addition of tactile feedback allows the surgeon to grasp with less force, and may improve control of the robotic system and handling of tissues and other objects.
Date of Publication: April-June 2009