ARAKNES – Array of Robots Augmenting the KiNematics of Endoluminal Surgery

ARAKNES is a European Commision project on FP7-ICT-Challenge 3: Components, Systems and Engineering/Micro/Nano Systems. The Consortium is composed by eleven partners including research laboratories and companies.  This project aims at bringing a set of advanced bio-robotic and microsystem technologies inside the patient’s stomach for therapy and surgery.

The global goal of ARAKNES is to integrate the advantages of traditional open surgery, minimally invasive surgery (MIS), and robotics surgery into a novel operative system for bi-manual, ambulatory, tethered, and visible scarless surgery. We aim at bringing the ARAKNES system close to real industrial manufacturing and full product validation, so as to make it available soon to surgeons for clinical use.

Haptic Workstation

The introduction of robot in the medical landscape has revolutionized surgical care, considerably improving the quality of many surgical procedures. However, the lack of haptic feedback in the current robotic surgical systems is an issue that to date has not been solved. Whereas traditional open surgery provides full haptic feedback when a teleoperated robotic surgical system is used direct palpation and tactile exploration are not longer possible. One of the tasks of EPFL in this project is to integrate tactile cues in the surgeon’ workstation to increase safety and surgeon’s performance.

In addition, a
dedicated ergonomic wrist is also being designed. The main goal is to adapt the haptic device to complex surgical tasks requiring more than 3 translational DOF. Several test-beds have been developed and experiments have been carried out to define the specifications of the haptic wrist.

Main characteristics of the haptic workstation:

  • Bimanual intuitive control for surgeons with force feedback
  • Providing tactile cues and vital signs of the patient
  • Ergonomic design

Robotic Miniature Manipulators

In order to provide force feedback to the surgeon during robotic surgery, interaction forces with the tissue have to be measured. Development of micromanipulator end effectors with sensing capabilities can solve this problem. Robotic arms integrated with smart tools, such as force and tactile sensorised graspers can provide the surgeon force and tactile feedback, thus improves the immersion of the surgeon into the operating field and the intuitiveness of the operation.

We developed a surgical robot gripper integrated with a sensor measuring Cartesian forces plus gripping force. Gripping and XYZ Cartesian forces can be measured with a resolution of 0.1N for a maximum force of 10N. Suturing, dissection and ablation instruments will be attached on this 8 mm× 9 mm× 3 mm gripper. This sensor will be used to measure the forces directly applied in the robot end-effectors to transmit this information to the haptic workstation.

External Manipulator

The major open drawbacks of the current surgical robots are being voluminous, competing for precious space within the operating room (OR) environment and significantly increasing ORs preparation time. In addition, although robotic systems offer excellent vision and precise tissue manipulation within a defined area, they are limited in operations involving more than one quadrant of the abdomen. Since many gastrointestinal operations involve operating in at least two abdominal quadrants, the repeated disconnection and movement of the robots increase significantly the duration of the surgical procedure.

In order to overcome these drawbacks, we designed a novel external positioning manipulator, the Dionis Manipulator, able to provide sufficient dexterity and precision to position the MIS instruments. The unique design of the proposed system permits to keep the above mentioned characteristics at any location within the abdominal cavity. Extensive discussions with the surgical community have provided a precious input to establish a highly innovative engineering surgical system. The proposed manipulator design will contribute to increase the precision and stability of abdominal surgical procedures, increasing their reliability. This is possible taking into account the performance of the presented parallel structure.