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by Sofia Villegas
10 October 2023
University of Edinburgh builds device able to accelerate surgeon training

Arturas Straizys from the University of Edinburgh demonstrates the smart scalpel in the lab | Rhona Crawford, University of Edinburgh

University of Edinburgh builds device able to accelerate surgeon training

A study by the University of Edinburgh has built scalpels with built-in sensors that could streamline surgeon training. 

Results showed that the technology broadly matched experts’ evaluation of surgical skill, meaning the instrument could simplify assessment processes.  

By analysing data from a sensor within the scalpel’s handle, researchers could accurately track the force professionals and medical students applied when doing an elliptical incision – a procedure used to remove moles and skin legions – in human skin-like material.

Information from the device was later compared to visual assessments by four experts – either plastic or neurosurgeons to assess the tool's efficiency. 

Although disagreements did emerge among experts, the team argued that these partly stemmed from the different techniques and use of instruments between surgeons. 

As there are scarce tools to measure the levels of force applied during surgery, researchers claim the device could lead to the first time that traditional assessments use this data.

Researchers believe the low-cost device could eventually be rolled out as an assessment tool and help develop robotic devices that can perform surgeries safely

Ram Ramamoorthy, professor at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics, said: “We are excited to develop this new system, which uses a combination of real-life sensing technology and machine learning methods to quantitatively assess surgical skill. 

"This system will enable the development of new systems for skill assessment and training and could one day lead to the creation of automated surgical devices that can assist surgical teams.”

UK Research and Innovation, the national funding agency, supported the research. The findings have been published in the Communications Engineering journal.

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