Prof.dr. J. Dankelman


  • BioMechanical Engineering

Clever instruments

"Clever instruments and high-quality training simulators"

Jenny Dankelman, professor in Biomechanical Engineering

Jenny Dankelman, professor in Biomechanical Engineering, dreams of a future - before 2050 - in which it will be possible to reach all parts of the human body with innovative instruments. This would enable almost any operation to be performed with a minimum of damage to healthy tissue.

"Increasing numbers of surgical operations are being done using minimally invasive techniques", Jenny Dankelman explained. "It is no longer necessary to open up the abdominal wall in order to remove a gall bladder; the surgeon performs the operation via a small incision, using special instruments. The benefits to the patient are considerable: less pain and a much quicker recovery. The disadvantage for the surgeons is that an operation is more difficult to perform, as they have to control their instruments remotely with the help of camera images on a monitor."

Simple and reliable
"To ensure all surgical operations in future are done using this type of keyhole technique, we are developing new instruments that are long, thin and easy to direct. To achieve this we are collaborating intensively with teaching hospitals. The main aim of this development is to ensure surgeons can use these instruments intuitively; in other words, the instruments should be simple and reliable. We develop training systems for the use of each instrument so doctors can familiarise themselves with the techniques in a safe environment. We also carry out experiments to measure to what extent doctors can apply the right force with the instruments and how good the eye-hand coordination is."

"Our discipline is challenging because you need to think up a clever solution for every application. If, for example, you need to penetrate deep into the body with an instrument, avoiding sensitive tissues, it would be really useful if you could discover a method of allowing the instrument to move like a sort of snake, so the part behind the guided tip follows the same route as the tip itself. When manipulating the intestines, you need to watch out that you do not perforate anything - something that can happen when you use a normal forceps. That is why we are investigating whether we can make a sort of glue as 'forceps', which will stick (or not) as desired. As a source of inspiration, we are looking at sea creatures that move over soft structures under water, releasing them whenever necessary"


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