Effect of sensory substitution on suture-manipulation forces for robotic surgical systems

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2005 Jan;129(1):151-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2004.05.029.


Objectives: Direct haptic (force or tactile) feedback is not yet available in commercial robotic surgical systems. Previous work by our group and others suggests that haptic feedback might significantly enhance the execution of surgical tasks requiring fine suture manipulation, specifically those encountered in cardiothoracic surgery. We studied the effects of substituting direct haptic feedback with visual and auditory cues to provide the operating surgeon with a representation of the forces he or she is applying with robotic telemanipulators.

Methods: Using the robotic da Vinci surgical system (Intuitive Surgical, Inc, Sunnyvale, Calif), we compared applied forces during a standardized surgical knot-tying task under 4 different sensory-substitution scenarios: no feedback, auditory feedback, visual feedback, and combined auditory-visual feedback.

Results: The forces applied with these sensory-substitution modes more closely approximate suture tensions achieved under ideal haptic conditions (ie, hand ties) than forces applied without such sensory feedback. The consistency of applied forces during robot-assisted suture tying aided by visual feedback or combined auditory-visual feedback sensory substitution is superior to that achieved with hand ties. Robot-assisted ties aided with auditory feedback revealed levels of consistency that were generally equivalent or superior to those attained with hand ties. Visual feedback and auditory feedback improve the consistency of robotically applied forces.

Conclusions: Sensory substitution, in the form of visual feedback, auditory feedback, or both, confers quantifiable advantages in applied force accuracy and consistency during the performance of a simple surgical task.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anastomosis, Surgical / instrumentation*
  • Anastomosis, Surgical / methods
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures / instrumentation
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures / methods
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Feedback
  • Humans
  • Man-Machine Systems
  • Probability
  • Risk Factors
  • Robotics*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Surgery, Computer-Assisted*
  • Suture Techniques / instrumentation*
  • Tensile Strength
  • Touch