Smart actuation and sensing for meso-scale surgical robotic systems
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This dissertation presents the development of meso-scale surgical robotics based on smart actuation and sensing for minimally invasive surgery (MIS). By replacing conventional straight tools by steerable surgical robots, surgical outcomes can potentially be improved due to more precise, stable, and flexible manipulation. Since bending and torsion are the two fundamental motion forms required by surgical tools to complete general surgical procedures, compact torsion and bending modules, both integrated with intrinsic sensors for motion feedback, have been developed based on shape memory alloy (SMA). The developed actuation and sensing techniques have been applied on a robot for neurosurgical intracerebral hemorrhage evacuation (NICHE) and a steerable catheter for atrial fibrillation (AFib) treatment. The NICHE robot consists of a straight stem, an SMA torsion module, and an SMA bending module as a distal bending tip. By synchronizing the motion of the stem, the bending module, and the torsion module, the robot is capable of tip articulation within the brain to remove hemorrhage effectively through suction and electrocauterization. In addition, a skull-mounted robotic headframe has been developed based on a Stewart platform to manipulate the NICHE robot. The robotic catheter is developed by integrating multiple SMA bending modules with flexible braid reinforced tubing. Polymer 3D-printing is used to fabricate all the structural components due to its relatively low cost, short fabrication period, and capability of fabricating complicated structures with high accuracy. The developed surgical robotic systems have been thoroughly evaluated using phantom or cadaver models under computed tomography (CT) and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) guidance. The imaging-guided experimental studies showed that the developed robotic systems consisting of smart actuation and sensing were compatible with CT and MR imaging.