Ergonomics in Remote Environments Laboratory


The rapid proliferation of enabling technology into the clinical environment has changed the way health care is delivered to patients. Technology has revolutionized the way physicians do their work, using new instrumentations, techniques, and procedures. For example, surgeons now perform surgery remotely and minimally invasively using endoscopic instruments and robotics. However, much of the development in endoscopic surgery, or minimally invasive surgery, has been technology-driven, with little consideration for human factors issues in design and implementation. As a result, higher workload and error rates have been documented. This has a significant impact on patient outcome.

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Fluorescent Medical Imaging in Minimally Invasive Surgery

This research explores the use of Indocyanine Green (ICG) fluorescent imaging for visualizing the biliary tract during laparoscopic cholecystectomy. This technology promises to be a safer, less-costly alternative to imaging techniques currently in use.

Ongoing projects:

  • Optimization of ICG imaging displays
  • Development of imaging prototype

Intraoperative Surgical Evaluation

This research focuses on the intraoperative assessment of surgical residents in the OR. The goal of this research is to facilitate the consistent and timely completion of resident assessments, which are a key component of surgical medical education.

Ongoing projects:

  • Development and testing of a smartphone application

Haptics in Virtual Collaborative Environments

This project studies the way that human subjects exchange and share information through the haptic channel in a virtual collaborative task. It explores whether a haptic language exists, the possible patterns of the haptic language, and if the pattern of the language is affected by the verbal communication. The understanding of the haptic communication can help with the design of the haptic interface for a virtual collaborative environment such as telesurgery.

Ongoing projects:

  • Haptic communication in Collaborative Virtual Environments
  • Reproduction of Displacement with Haptic Feedback in 3D Space

Surgical Skills Training

The goals of this research focus are to study surgical skills acquisition and retention of novice and expert surgeons and to design real and virtual surgical skill simulators for endoscopic surgery.

Ongoing projects:

  • Developing Physically-Based Virtual Simulation Technology for Natural Orifice Translumenal Endoscopic Surgery (NOTES)

Technology Assessment and Validation

The goal of this research focus is to evaluate and validate new designs of surgical training programmes and technology using the human-centered systems design approach.

Ongoing projects:

  • Developing Physically-Based Virtual Simulation Technology for Natural Orifice Translumenal Endoscopic Surgery (NOTES)
  • Developing Virtual Airway Skills Trainer (VAST)
  • Developing Laparoscopic Surgery Training System (LASTS)

Computer-assisted Planning for Port Placement in Robot-Assisted and Laparoscopic Surgery

The goal of this research is to provide a decision aid to assist surgeons in planning robot-assisted and laparoscopic surgery. Results from this study will be used to help reduce pre-operative planning time associated with robot-assisted and laparoscopic surgery as well as provide a tool to determine best trocar placement.

Use of Stochastic Resonance Methods for Improving Laparoscopic Surgery Performance

The purpose of this study is to determine if vibrotactile feedback and stochastic resonance would improve performance (accuracy, speed) in laparoscopic palpation tasks. This research has implications for the design of instruments and potential methods for increasing accuracy performance in minimally invasive surgical procedures such as in the case of tissue compliance differentiation (tumor identification).

Haptic Interface for Haptics and Proprioception

The goals of this research are to explore proprioception, haptics and tactile sensory processing for environments when sensory input may be altered. This may be applied to telesurgery and robotic surgery to heighten the operator’s performance. This project has multiple discipline involvement from neuroengineering and neuroscience to electrical engineering to implement devices that will be effective for human performance.

Past Research Projects

  • Haptics in laparoscopic remote manipulation
  • Development and preliminary evaluation of a fiber optic bend sensor using CMOS imaging technique
  • Visuomotor congruency in laparoscopic surgery
  • Multi-axis optical-fiber bend sensor for colonoscopy guidance
  • Evaluation of rotational frequency modulation for force feedback delivery in laparoscopic tissue differentiation tasks
  • Detection of drowsy drivers through driver performance indicators
  • Treatment of optical fibres for curvature measurements
  • Confusion in auditory alarms in everyday products
  • Vibrotactile stimulation and force feedback in laparoscopic surgery
  • Enhancing depth perception with colored shadows
  • Design of logging tool for behavior modification
  • Enhancing the layout of graphically presented browsing history with implicit spatial and temporal knowledge
  • Assessment of cognitive loading attributed to encapsulation by headgear
  • Effects of friction on haptic perception in simulated endoscopic environments
  • Introducing a robotic surgical system in the operation room: effects on communication flow and attentional resources
  • The effects of texture and 3D graphic representations on human performance using touchscreen interfaces
  • Evaluation of Three Model Predictions of Alertness
  • Analysis of fixations in team decision making in the OR
  • Knowledge of results in surgical skills acquisition
  • Frames of reference and spatial cues for teaching in laparoscopic surgery
  • Modelling training and success of surgical residents at Tufts-New England Medical Centre
  • Postural stress in surgeons

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