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This paper presents a robotic vision system that automatically retrieves and positions surgical instruments during robotized laparoscopic surgical operations. The instrument is mounted on the end-effector of a surgical robot which is controlled by visual servoing. The goal of the automated task is to safely bring the instrument at a desired three-dimensional location from an unknown or hidden position. Light-emitting diodes are attached on the tip of the instrument, and a specific instrument holder fitted with optical fibers is used to project laser dots on the surface of the organs. These optical markers are detected in the endoscopic image and allow localizing the instrument with respect to the scene. The instrument is recovered and centered in the image plane by means of a visual servoing algorithm using feature errors in the image. With this system, the surgeon can specify a desired relative position between the instrument and the pointed organ. The relationship between the velocity screw of the surgical instrument and the velocity of the markers in the image is estimated online and, for safety reasons, a multistages servoing scheme is proposed. Our approach has been successfully validated in a real surgical environment by performing experiments on living tissues in the surgical training room of the Institut de Recherche sur les Cancers de l'Appareil Digestif (IRCAD), Strasbourg, France.
Date of Publication: Oct. 2003