Designing an Interface for Telesurgery

Jon Bowersox, MD, PhD, Department of Surgery, Stanford University School of Medicine

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University February 28, 1997


Minimally invasive surgery benefits patients, who receive smaller incisions and recover more quickly. However, it imposes new challenges on surgeons, who must develop new perceptual and motor skills to operate indirectly through an electronic interface. The operative field is presented as an image on a video display monitor that is degraded by optics, digital processing, and decreased resolution. Tactile senstation is lost, and kinesthetic feedback is diminshed by the length and dampening inherent in laparoscopic instruments. Although less prominent, auditory and olfactory sensory input is minimal. Telepresence surgery completely removes the surgeon from the operative field, by using remote video imaging and robotics technologies to create an electronic linkage to a distant site.

In studies using a telepresence surgery system developed at SRI International, operative procedures were performed successfully, but with a 2.5-3.0X increase in times required. The objective of our research is to define the human factors necessary for complex task performance, and develop methods to quantitate the visual and haptic requirements for an electronic telesurgery interface. We have developed an automated Fitts Law task board as the first step toward defining perceptual and motor skills in surgery, and are applying this method to determine optimal system requirements.


Jon Bowersox is in the Department of Surgery, Stanford University School of Medicine.


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