Good vibrations: Surgical tool may increase surgeons' sensitivity during operations

med students
A tiny, vibrating surgical tool, very possibly one of the most counterintuitive medical devices to emerge in recent years, has helped heighten surgeons’ sensitivity to shapes and textures — and may enable them to sense a patient’s internal tissues and tumors during operations.

During many surgical procedures, surgeons use slim, metal tools, which help minimize invasiveness but inhibit their ability to “feel” their way through the operation. The PZT Actuator, developed by engineers from Hiroshima University in Japan, attaches to the handle of surgical tools and vibrates imperceptibly against the surgeon’s palm, gently delivering detailed information about internal tissue and organs.

Dr. Yuichi Kurita, the lead researcher, told Digital Trends his venture into the technology was inspired by a visit to the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he realized that surgeons often lacked that tactile connection to the bodies they operate on.

PZTActuator
Yuichi Kurita, Hiroshima University
Yuichi Kurita, Hiroshima University

“After I joined Hiroshima University, I had an idea to apply this to improve the operations during minimally invasive surgery … and talked to research collaborators in the Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Hiroshima University,” he said. Kurita presented the first findings from his research to an international conference three years ago.

Fast forward to 2016 and Kurita and his team have taken the PZT Actuator a few steps further.

To test the device, researchers blindfolded volunteers and had them use a tool equipped with the PZT Actuator to identify various textures of sandpaper and to locate a Styrofoam ball within a silicone-filled cup. According to the researchers, this test is like pinpointing a solid tumor within human tissue.

There’s still some work to be done before the device is ready to hit the operating table. For one, Kurita says true surgical trials on actual or simulated tissue would be required to make the device more precise.

“Practical design is also needed to keep the functional requirements for a surgical tool,” he adds, listing safety, hygiene, and ease of use as important factors. “After dealing with these issues, we will test in a real surgery.”

Photography

MIT science photographer isn’t an artist, but her work could fill galleries

Felice Frankel is an award-winning photographer, but she doesn't consider herself an artist. As a science photographer, she has been helping researchers better communicate their ideas for nearly three decades with eye-catching imagery.
Emerging Tech

3D printing could help regrow bones of injured combat veterans

A scientist at the University of Arizona is investigating ways to mend broken bones using 3D printing and adult stem cells. The research is geared toward helping veterans who suffer combat injuries.
Emerging Tech

Virginia Tech beats out competition, wins smart home Solar Decathlon

Modular smart homes are all the rage and now some students from Virginia Tech have won a major competition in Dubai with their Futurehaus, a modular, solar-powered, transforming smart home.
Deals

The 11 best computer reading glasses for eye strain

Eye strain, headaches, and dry eyes are all side effects of too much exposure to blue light and screen glare. Get yourself a pair of computer reading glasses to help relieve the discomfort.
Deals

Cyber Monday extended: Best Cyber Week Deals on the Apple Watch

Cyber Monday deals are rolling in, and the most popular savings of 2018 are on Apple Watches. Save up to $80 on brand new Apple Watch Series 3 before the holidays. We've rounded up the best deals from Apple, Target, and Best Buy.
Deals

Cyber Monday Extended: Best Cyber Week Smartwatch Deals

Cyber Monday is known for its awesome online sales. Smartwatches, fitness trackers .. they both will see deep discounts. Now is your chance to score a new wearable at rock bottom prices.
Emerging Tech

Breakthrough male contraceptive gel is nearly ready for the bedroom

A new male contraceptive gel is absorbed through the skin, and promises to temporarily reduce sperm count in order to avoid pregnancy. Here's how you can get involved with a clinical trial.
Emerging Tech

Keep your holiday gift list high-tech and low-budget with these gadgets

Modern technology doesn't always come cheap, but there plenty of premium devices that don't carry a premium price. Whether you're looking for a streaming device or a means of capturing photos from above, our list of the best tech under $50…
Deals

Still have money in your Flexible Spending Account? Head to the FSA online store

Don’t panic if you still have money sitting in your FSA and no doctor's appointments on the horizon. The FSA store has plenty of cool, useful gizmos you’ll want to purchase for your home and your health.
Emerging Tech

Wearable device spots signs of an opioid overdose, automatically calls for help

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have developed a wearable device that’s capable of detecting an opioid overdose and sending out an alert to medical personnel. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

First baby born using a womb transplanted from a deceased donor

In a world first, doctors have confirmed the birth of a healthy baby girl in Brazil using a womb transplanted from a deceased donor. Here's why that's so potentially transformative.
Emerging Tech

This implant goes beyond pacemakers, helps aging hearts beat more vigorously

The FDA's advisory committee has voted to recommend an innovative pacemaker-style gadget be approved in the U.S. The Optimizer Smart Implantable Pulse Generator boosts performance, strength, and pumping ability of weakened heart chambers.
Outdoors

Forget pumps. This innovative filter purifies H2O in 8 seconds flat

The Grayl Geopress water purification system removes more than 99 percent of all bacteria, cysts, and viruses from water in just eight seconds, providing clean drinking water to travelers and outdoor adventurers.
Outdoors

Built to take a beating and still perform, these are the best hiking watches

A proper hiking watch should track exercise metrics and act as a navigational co-pilot during any kind of hike. Ideally, it'll even have a built-in GPS system and sensors. Here are five of the best hiking watches.