Force-Sensing-Based Multi-Platform Robotic Assistance for Vitreoretinal Surgery

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Johns Hopkins University
Vitreoretinal surgery aims to treat disorders of the retina, vitreous body, and macula, such as retinal detachment, diabetic retinopathy, macular hole, epiretinal membrane and retinal vein occlusion. Challenged by several technical and human limitations, vitreoretinal practice currently ranks amongst the most demanding fields in ophthalmic surgery. Of vitreoretinal procedures, membrane peeling is the most common to be performed, over 0.5 million times annually, and among the most prone to complications. It requires an extremely delicate tissue manipulation by various micron scale maneuvers near the retina despite the physiological hand tremor of the operator. In addition, to avoid injuries, the applied forces on the retina need to be kept at a very fine level, which is often well below the tactile sensory threshold of the surgeon. Retinal vein cannulation is another demanding procedure where therapeutic agents are injected into occluded retinal veins. The feasibility of this treatment is limited due to challenges in identifying the moment of venous puncture, achieving cannulation and maintaining it throughout the drug delivery period. Recent advancements in medical robotics have significant potential to address most of the challenges in vitreoretinal practice, and therefore to prevent traumas, lessen complications, minimize intra-operative surgeon effort, maximize surgeon comfort, and promote patient safety. This dissertation presents the development of novel force-sensing tools that can easily be used on various robotic platforms, and robot control methods to produce integrated assistive surgical systems that work in partnership with surgeons against the current limitations in vitreoretinal surgery, specifically focusing on membrane peeling and vein cannulation procedures. Integrating high sensitivity force sensing into the ophthalmic instruments enables precise quantitative monitoring of applied forces. Auditory feedback based upon the measured forces can inform (and warn) the surgeon quickly during the surgery and help prevent injury due to excessive forces. Using these tools on a robotic platform can attenuate hand tremor of the surgeon, which effectively promotes tool manipulation accuracy. In addition, based upon certain force signatures, the robotic system can precisely identify critical instants, such as the venous puncture in retinal vein cannulation, and actively guide the tool towards clinical targets, compensate any involuntary motion of the surgeon, or generate additional motion that will make the surgical task easier. The experimental results using two distinct robotic platforms, the Steady-Hand Eye Robot and Micron, in combination with the force-sensing ophthalmic instruments, show significant performance improvement in artificial dry phantoms and ex vivo biological tissues.
Fiber Bragg Grating, Force Sensing, Vitreoretinal Surgery, Robot-Assisted Surgery, Membrane Peeling, Cannulation