Through the keyhole

King’s Health Partners clinicians have developed a novel device to help surgeons carry out keyhole surgery more safely. 

gripper keyhole surgeryClinicians from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London have worked together to design a device aimed at helping surgeons carry out keyhole surgery more safely.

Keyhole surgery, also known as laparoscopy, is a type of robotic procedure that allows a surgeon to access the inside of the abdomen and pelvis without having to make large incisions in the skin.

Laparoscopic surgery can also be used as a way of surgically removing organs when they become infected, such as the appendix when a person has appendicitis. It carries much lower risks than open surgery.

The challenge with keyhole surgery when removing organs is identifying which blood vessels need to be cut and sealed correctly. Surgeons need to feel the pulsations of vessels in order to differentiate those feeding (arteries) and draining (veins) the organs. However, because the procedure uses robotic instruments the surgeons are unable to do so. This means the surgeon takes longer to find the artery before they can seal it, thus increases the risk of infection and bleeding.

To reduce this risk, Mr Oussama Elhage, and Professor Prokar Dasgupta, both Consultant Urological Surgeons at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, and Dr Hongbin Liu, Senior Lecturer in Robotics at King’s College London, have produced a device with a 3D printer called the Gripper.

The Gripper is a novel feedback sensor device which identifies the arterial pulsation so surgeons can quickly locate which vessels need to be sealed.

The Gripper device displays the detected pulsations on a monitor, providing details on the size, direction, and number of arteries in the tissue. The device will help surgeons carry out the procedure more safely, reducing the risk of excessive bleeding and the overall operation time.

Commenting on the new invention, Dr Hongbin Liu said:

We are very grateful to the Guy’s and St Thomas’ Bright Ideas Fund for helping make the Gripper device a reality and are now seeking a commercial partner to license the technology and make the Gripper widely available across our healthcare system.

Professor Prokar Dasgupta added:

The 3D printed gripper technology has the potential to become a game changer in keyhole surgery by identifying blood vessels accurately, reducing the risk of injury and improving patient safety.

The team was supported with £75,000 of funding from the Bright Ideas Fund, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, to develop a functional prototype, and has filed a patent application on the technology.

To hear more about the Bright Ideas Fund please contact Deborah Carter Deborah.Carter@gstt.nhs.uk at the Intellectual Property and Commercial Research Unit at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

The King’s Health Partners Medicine Clinical Academic Group provides a response to patients who need emergency or urgent treatment.