Medical Design Briefs - December 2022 - 90

Flexible Surgical Needle Offers Enhanced Precision
EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland
E
ngineers from EPFL and the University
of Strasbourg have developed an
innovative surgical needle whose trajectory
can be corrected on the fly, thanks
to a flexible tip controlled with a simple
button. Intended for use in image-guided
surgery, the needle offers greater precision
in surgeon's movements and reduces
the risk for patients.
A growing number of surgical procedures
are being performed with minimally
invasive techniques. Surgeons
make an incision just a few centimeters
long and then use long, thin instruments
and needles to reach the target tissue,
with their movements guided by imaging
technology. However, even the most
care ful surgeons often have to adjust the
needle's trajectory as they go along, pulling
it out and repositioning it. In some
cases, the tissue can be extremely hard to
reach because it's tucked away behind an
organ, for example.
Such probing with a stiff needle can
make surgeries last longer and increase
the risk of trauma or infection. Charles
Baur, an engineer at EPFL's Instant-Lab
(School of Engineering), working with
et Lennart Rubbert, researcher at Strasbourg
University, has developed a new
kind of flexible needle (ARC) that addresses
this problem. A button on the
needle's handle allows surgeons to correct
the needle's trajectory, enabling
them to reach diseased tissue more
quickly and, if needed, explore nearby
tissue without pulling the needle out.
n A Fully Mechanical System
" Today the perception in hospitals is
that the stiffer a needle is, the greater
precision it can deliver, " says Baur. That's
because a stiff needle makes it easier for
surgeons to move the instrument exactly
as they want. This kind of stiffness can be
found in the needle developed by Baur
and his French colleague, thanks to the
financing of the technology transfer office
SATT Connectus, but coupled with a
tip that surgeons can curve as needed.
The whole system is mechanical.
" Our needle actually has two tubes,
one inside the other, " says Baur. " When
a surgeon slides the button, the inner
tube translates and releases one, two or
three tiny segments that move in the di90
2mm
The
trajectory of the innovative surgical needle can be corrected on the fly, thanks to a flexible tip
controlled with a simple button. (Credit: EPFL)
process, the engineers were able to make
customized needles with diameters of
When a surgeon slides the button, the inner tube
translates and releases one, two or three tiny segments
that move in the direction indicated by the bevel
of the needle. (Credit: EPFL)
rection indicated by the bevel of the
needle and therefore by the orientation
of the surgeon's hand. For now, only the
first few centimeters of the tip are flexible,
but the system could be modified to
extend that. " We could also make some
noncontiguous segments of the tip flexible
while keeping the others stiff. That
would allow an infinite number of possible
trajectories. "
n The Benefits of Glass
Baur, together with Rubbert, worked
with FEMTOprint, a 3D printing company
for glass devices, to fabricate their
needle, while Juan Verde, surgeon at the
IHU of Strasbourg helped them finalize
the design. Thanks to the high-precision
www.medicaldesignbriefs.com
0.9-4.5 mm so as to cover a wide range of
surgical applications. The researchers
tested two different types of materials:
stainless steel and glass. The stainlesssteel
version is the most advanced because
" glass technology is emerging and
still requires development. Nevertheless,
needles are intended for soft-tissue surgery,
meaning they won't have to withstand
shocks, " says Baur. " We performed
resistance tests in silicone, which showed
that the kind of glass we selected offers
numerous benefits: it's biocompatible,
hard to deform, can be used with MRI
machines, and doesn't create reflections
that could interfere with images of the
area being operated on. "
The flexible needles are almost ready
for preclinical trials, and the engineers
are actively seeking companies to partner
with. " It is possible to add additional
functions to ensure specific surgical procedures
such as electrostimulation, administration
of medication on demand
or biopsies, to name a few, " notes Baur.
The researchers plan to eventually connect
high-precision systems to their device
in order to give doctors smarter
medical equipment.
This article was written by C├ęcilia Carron,
EPFL. For more information, visit
https://actu.epfl.ch or contact cecilia.
carron@epfl.ch.
Medical Design Briefs, December 2022
https://actu.epfl.ch http://www.medicaldesignbriefs.com

Medical Design Briefs - December 2022

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