©2017-2019 WPI Cognitive Medical Technologies and Robotics lab

Intraoperative Surgical Thermometry

Energy-based tools are commonly used in minimally invasive surgery to perform a variety of tasks. Cauterization is one example, that is the practice of coagulating blood vessels by rapidly heating up tissue, with the aim of controlling bleeding and maintaining good visibility of the surgical scenario. Ideally, surgeons would like to seal blood vessels, and at the same time limit the spread of thermal energy to surrounding tissue. This is particularly important when operating in proximity of delicate anatomy: thermal nerve injury is a common complication of prostatectomy and leads to a variety of health issues, including permanent erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence.

We believe that if surgeons had access to temperature information during surgery, this would enable them to better control the thermal spread created during cauterization. To test this hypothesis, we are exploring new methods to monitor tissue temperature: the goal is to implement a system that can be straightforwardly integrated in a surgical setting. 

One approach we are currently pursuing involves the use of infrared (IR) camera technology. IR cameras have recently come to market in a form factor that facilitates packaging in endoscopic or other minimally invasive surgical instruments. If absolute temperature measurements can be made with these cameras, they may be useful for non-contact monitoring of thermal surgical processes.

Related publications:

S. Lin, L. Fichera, M.J. Fulton, R.J. Webster III,

Don't Get Burned: Thermal Monitoring of Vessel Sealing using a Miniature Infrared Camera,

SPIE Medical Imaging, Orlando, FL, 2017.

D. Pardo, L. Fichera, D. Caldwell, and L.S. Mattos,

Learning Temperature Dynamics on Agar-based Phantom Tissue Surface during Single Point CO2 Laser Exposure,

Neural Processing Letters 42(1):55-70, 2015.