New instrument simplifies surgery

Surgeons will soon be able to perform operations with greater precision thanks to a new device developed in Germany.

The vulcanized instrument handle has been designed so that surgical tools – such as screwdrivers or spreaders – can be screwed into it, making surgeries easier to conduct.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA in Stuttgart developed the device in collaboration with Weber Instrumente.

They claim that by integrating electronic components, the surgeon is given feedback during the procedure, advising if an instrument can be inserted even further.

For example, if the surgeon tightens a screw, then the sensors measure the applied force. Once the optimal torsional moment is reached, LEDs report this through an optical signal.

This signal can be seen through the transparent silicon sections of the handle.

‘It is primarily the young, less experienced surgeons with little surgical practice who benefit the most from this technology,’ said Christof Giers, a scientist at IPA.

The necessary power is supplied and stored via an inductive charging process or a coil system.

‘One coil is located inside the hand grip; the other is in a little table. The surgeon merely has to put the handle on the table, and the battery is charged,’ said Giers in a statement.

All of the electronics – including the sensors, assessment and LED – are installed in the handle. This means there is no split or seam that would enable germs to penetrate and proliferate.

The instrument handle can be also be sterilized at 134 degrees Celsius. Since the electronics are switched off in the sterilization process, it can withstand the high temperatures undamaged.

‘Previously, surgical instruments had no electronics inside – the heat would have rendered them inoperative,’ said Giers.

The researchers intend to enhance the approximately 9cm handle with a wireless interface, so that the sensor data can be transmitted to a PC, allowing the surgical process to be documented.

An initial prototype will be on display at this year’s Medtec trade show in Stuttgart from 26 to 28 February.