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Laser Suturing in Development for Minimally Invasive Surgery

Laser beam pointed at camera (Nayu Kim)Researchers of the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology (IPT) in Aachen, Germany are developing a laser-based suturing process for use in minimally-invasive surgeries. The new process can simplify current methods with a form of laser welding replacing knots.

More abdominal surgeries are being carried out in a minimally invasive manner, where the surgeon needs only a small incision in the abdominal wall to make organs visible with an endoscope. However, these minimally invasive surgeries pose a special challenge to surgeons, particularly suturing that demands great skill and dexterity. Piercing the tissue and tying knots is difficult in very tight quarters, where a knot must be made after every stitch, can stress the patient and can cause complications.

The IPT team has developed a laser-based device, where the surgeon connects the suture material with a previously set, predefined tension, rather than subjectively estimating the optimum tension. Not only does the laser device shorten the time needed for suturing, it also hastens the healing of the wound.

This new process can also remove the need for knotting the suture material, using instead a form of laser welding. With the new device, the edges of the wound can be joined quickly and safely, since it automatically ensures the optimum tension for the suture. The surgeon no longer has the difficult task of knotting the ends of the suture material.

The IPT researchers have demonstrated the process in the lab. More preclinical tests are planned for this year at the Aachen university hospital. A prototype of the suturing instrument will be displayed at the MEDTEC Europe Fair in Stuttgart, Germany, 22-24 March 2011.

Read more: Engineers Advance Laser Welding for Bioanalytics

Photo:  Nayu Kim/Flickr

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