Haptic Enhancement of Robotic Surgery

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Mechanical Engineering


This PhD scholarship will explore how haptic sensing and feedback strategies can be used to enhance robotic surgery. The scholarship will build on key research expertise, infrastructure and collaborative links within the University.

Robotically Assisted Surgery (RAS) is becoming increasingly adopted within modern healthcare systems, as exemplified by the da Vinci system from Intuitive Surgical. It brings key advantages in enabling surgeons to perform increasingly complex procedures with greater levels of precision and resultant improvements in patient outcomes. However, current robotic systems have limited real-time sensory feedback to guide surgical practice- information that is known to augment performance in other surgical domains (e.g. laparoscopic procedures). This has particular implications for cancer surgery, where accurate dissection of tissue planes, the ability to differentiate normal from cancerous tissue and identification of delicate anatomical structures is vital to an optimal outcome. Thus, a critical clinical challenge is to understand how to effectively integrate haptic sensing and feedback into RAS systems.

Description of Work
This PhD will investigate how haptic sensing can be integrated into RAS systems and then explore how the information can be best used to inform surgical practice. We predict that for trainee surgeons, direct feedback of haptic information will inhibit, rather than enhance, surgical practice due to information (cognitive) overload. Instead, semi-autonomous control schemes will be investigated which facilitate surgeon interaction while reducing cognitive load. An analogue of this is the use of 'anti-lock braking' in vehicles in which slip/skid control is performed by a high-speed control system, modulated by the driver.

Research Objectives
This PhD will focus on the development of surgically appropriate sensing systems, and sensory analysis methods, and consider their integration into next generation surgical robotic systems for the advancement of surgical performance.
The PhD will be experimental in nature, focussing on development of methods for fabrication, characterisation and evaluation of sensory systems across a range of operating regimes.
Novel outputs from the PhD will include advances in sensing systems, sensory analysis and applied sensing in the surgical robotics field.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/R513258/1 30/09/2018 29/09/2023
2122757 Studentship EP/R513258/1 30/09/2018 29/06/2022 Ian Waters