Mechanical & Materials Engineering, Department of


Date of this Version

Fall 12-1-2010


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Interdepartmental Area of Engineering, Under the Supervision of Professor Shane M. Farritor. Lincoln, Nebraska: December 2010
Copyright 2010 Jeff A. Hawks


Laparoscopic surgery results in superior patient outcomes as measured by less painful recovery and an earlier return to functional health compared to conventional open surgery. However, the difficulty of manipulating laparoscopic tools from outside the patient’s body generally limits these benefits to patients undergoing relatively simple procedures. The use of miniature in vivo robots that fit entirely inside the peritoneal cavity represents a novel approach to laparoscopic surgery. These robots enable more complex laparoscopic procedures, increasing the number of patients that benefit from laparoscopic surgery.

This thesis describes recent work focused on developing a modular wireless mobile platform that can be used for surgical vision and task assistance. The modular platform can contain a variety of tools. Design details, experimental results, and analysis of new robot prototypes (cautery, clamping, staple, sensory feedback, etc.) are presented. A biopsy tool is also redesigned from previous work. Finite element analysis and experimental results are used to analyze the grasper design, which successfully removed a liver tissue sample. Tools can be removed and exchanged in a few minutes allowing a surgeon to equip the robotic platform with the appropriate tool for the desired surgical assistance. Also, a retractable cautery device is developed. Lab experiments successfully cut and cauterized objects simulating blood vessels while another mobile platform cooperatively held the sample for cutting. Finally, visual and physiological sensory feedback packages are used to provide surgeons real time data from within the abdominal cavity. These types of self-contained surgical devices are much more transportable and much lower in cost than current robotic surgical assistants. Furthermore, such devices can be carried and deployed by non-medical personnel at the site of an injury. Moreover, a remotely located surgeon could then use these robots to provide critical first response medical intervention irrespective of the location of the patient.