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In traditional open surgery, surgeons use their fingertip palpation to investigate the hidden anatomical structures of tissue. However, in the current commercially available minimally invasive robotic surgery (MIRS) systems, while surgical instruments interact with tissues, surgeons do not sense any tactile information. Therefore, tactile sensors are required to be integrated into the tips of surgical instruments to mimic the perception of the surgeon's fingertips. The electrically based tactile sensors that exist at present cannot usually operate under static loading conditions. In addition, they are not compatible with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) devices. Therefore, this research was aimed at restoring tactile information by developing an MRI compatible optical fiber tactile sensor. The sensor consists of only one single moving part. Thanks to this novel design, the sensor does not require the use of an array of sensors to measure the distributed tactile information. This capability simplifies the integration of the sensor into any suitable space available at the tips of surgical instruments. In addition, the sensor performs under both static and dynamic loading conditions. A theoretical model of the sensor and a finite-element model of the sensor-tissue interaction were developed. To validate the sensor, a prototype of the sensor was fabricated and tested.
Date of Publication: Jan. 2012