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Title: A novel flexible and steerable probe for minimally invasive soft tissue intervention
Author: Frasson, Luca
ISNI:       0000 0004 2702 749X
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2011
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Current trends in surgical intervention favour a minimally invasive (MI) approach, in which complex procedures are performed through increasingly small incisions. Specifically, in neurosurgery, there is a need for minimally invasive keyhole access, which conflicts with the lack of maneuverability of conventional rigid instruments. In an attempt to address this fundamental shortcoming, this thesis describes the concept design, implementation and experimental validation of a novel flexible and steerable probe, named “STING” (Soft Tissue Intervention and Neurosurgical Guide), which is able to steer along curvilinear trajectories within a compliant medium. The underlying mechanism of motion of the flexible probe, based on the reciprocal movement of interlocked probe segments, is biologically inspired and was designed around the unique features of the ovipositor of certain parasitic wasps. Such insects are able to lay eggs by penetrating different kinds of “host” (e.g. wood, larva) with a very thin and flexible multi-part channel, thanks to a micro-toothed surface topography, coupled with a reciprocating “push and pull” motion of each segment. This thesis starts by exploring these foundations, where the “microtexturing” of the surface of a rigid probe prototype is shown to facilitate probe insertion into soft tissue (porcine brain), while gaining tissue purchase when the probe is tensioned outwards. Based on these findings, forward motion into soft tissue via a reciprocating mechanism is then demonstrated through a focused set of experimental trials in gelatine and agar gel. A flexible probe prototype (10 mm diameter), composed of four interconnected segments, is then presented and shown to be able to steer in a brain-like material along multiple curvilinear trajectories on a plane. The geometry and certain key features of the probe are optimised through finite element models, and a suitable actuation strategy is proposed, where the approach vector of the tip is found to be a function of the offset between interlocked segments. This concept of a “programmable bevel”, which enables the steering angle to be chosen with virtually infinite resolution, represents a world-first in percutaneous soft tissue surgery. The thesis concludes with a description of the integration and validation of a fully functional prototype within a larger neurosurgical robotic suite (EU FP7 ROBOCAST), which is followed by a summary of the corresponding implications for future work.
Supervisor: Rodriguez y Baena, Ferdinando ; Davies, Brian Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral