Random Walk: In the Operating Room
At 6 a.m. one Wednesday in May, students entered an operating room at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center to try their hand at robot-assisted surgery. Professor Ryan Halter Th’06 wanted his ENGS 57/169: “Intermediate Biomedical Engineering” class to literally get the feel of a da Vinci surgical system, using handles in a console to control robotic arms set above an operating table on the other side of the room. “It was incredibly rewarding to sit behind the actual instrument where, just a few weeks prior, we saw a prostatectomy being performed—and actually use the same device as the surgeon used,” says Alex Engler ’12. “Within five minutes I was successfully ‘suturing’ a rubber ring to a foam-core base. It gave a real sense of appreciation for the engineering that went into creating this device.” The experience aided students in developing solutions to real clinical needs: an LED-based technique to guide ultrasound during robot-assisted kidney surgery, a probe for sensing surgical margins during robot-assisted prostate surgery, a fixation system for jaw surgery, and a vacuum-attachment device for use in laser ablative skin procedures. According to Halter, the groups that worked on the jaw and vacuum devices are pursuing patent protection.
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