Invasive surgical procedures are essential for addressing various medical conditions. When possible, minimally invasive procedures are preferred, but these technologies are often limited in scope and complexity. These limitations are due in part to mobility restrictions from the use of rigid tools in small openings, and limited visual feedback. The currently available robotic systems are restricted by the use of access ports, and have limited sensory and mobility capabilities.

Currently, manually operated electro-cautery vessel sealing and cutting devices are used for laparoscopic surgical procedures. However, this device allows electro-cautery to be incorporated into robotic end-effectors for vessel sealing and cutting devices, and can be used with a variety of medical devices, including robotic natural orifice translumenal endoscopic surgical devices. Devices can be positioned within a patient’s body cavity during a surgical procedure. The basic design of these tools includes two electrically isolated jaws and a knife for post-cautery separation. The devices have the ability to sense as well as cauterize.

This sealing device has a substantially fixed jaw component, a mobile jaw component adjacent to the substantially fixed jaw component, and a cutting component configured to move between a first position and a second position. The cautery component includes a stationary jaw component, a mobile jaw component for clasping and cauterizing a vessel, and a cutting component, providing a three-function end effector.

Each of the fixed and mobile jaw components is connected to a source of electrical current so the jaws function as bipolar electrodes. In use, the electricity flowing through the jaws creates heat, which cauterizes a vessel clasped between the jaws. The system is able to sense the amount of tissue between the jaws and adjust the electrical current accordingly for appropriate cauterization.

This work was done by Shane Farritor, Tom Frederick, and Joe Bartels of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln for Johnson Space Center. NASA is seeking partners to further develop this technology through joint cooperative research and development. For more information about this technology and to explore opportunities, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. MSC-25619


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the November, 2016 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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