Surgical Innovation Through Engineering

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VISE Affiliated Labs

The Vanderbilt Institute in Surgery and Engineering (VISE) is an interdisciplinary, trans-institutional entity designed to facilitate these interactions and exchanges. Its mission is the creation, development, implementation, clinical evaluation and commercialization of methods, devices, algorithms, and systems designed to facilitate interventional processes and their outcome. Its goal is to become the premier center for the training of the next generation of surgeons, engineers, and computer scientists capable of working synergistically on new solutions to complex interventional problems, ultimately resulting in improved patient care. VISE includes ten technical laboratories spanning three engineering departments (Biomedical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) and the Otolaryngology department as well as clinical departments that include Surgery, Neurological Surgery, Radiology, Otolaryngology, Hearing and Speech, Oncology, Gastroenterology, Surgical and Radiological Oncology, Ophthalmology, Urology, and Thoracic Surgery.

Advanced Robotics and Mechanism Applications (ARMA) Laboratory

Nabil Simaan & bladder surgery robot - Mechanical Engineering - Would like really striking photo of the system, if possible, plus good lab shots of Simaan plus students.. Photos by Joe Howell

PI: Nabil Simaan, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering & Otolaryngology, Vanderbilt University

ARMA is focused on advanced robotics research including robotics, mechanism design, control, and telemanipulation for medical applications. We focus on enabling technologies that necessitate novel design solutions that require contributions in design modeling and control. ARMA has lead the way in advancing several robotics technologies for medical applications including high dexterity snake-like robots for surgery, steerable electrode arrays for cochlear implant surgery, robotics for single port access surgery and natural orifice surgery. Current and past funded research includes transurethral bladder cancer resection (NIH), trans-oral minimally invasive surgery of the upper airways (NIH), single port access surgery (NIH), technologies for robot surgical situational awareness (National Robotics Initiative), Micro-vascular surgery and micro surgery of the retina (VU Discovery Grant), Robotics for cochlear implant surgery (Cochlear Corporation). We collaborate closely with industry on translation our research. Examples include technologies for snake robots licensed to Intuitive Surgical, technologies for micro-surgery of the retina which lead to the formation of AURIS surgical robotics Inc.,  the IREP single port surgery robot which has been licensed to Titan Medical Inc. and serves as the research prototype behind the Titan Medial Inc. SPORT (Single Port Orifice Robotic Technology). Contact Nabil Simaan    View ARMA lab video here: Click here to view VISE affilate lab video

Biomedical Elasticity and Acoustic Measurement (BEAM) Laboratory

Professor Brett Byram Biomedical Engineering Professors interacting with students in their labs. Shot for School of Engineering Comms Dept. (Daniel Dubois / Vanderbilt University)

PI: Brett Byram, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Vanderbilt University

The biomedical elasticity and acoustic measurement (BEAM) lab is interested in pursuing ultrasonic solutions to clinical problems. Brett Byram and the BEAM lab’s members have experience with most aspects of systems level ultrasound research, but our current efforts focus on advanced pulse sequencing and algorithm development for motion estimation and beamforming. Our motion estimation work focuses on both coarse and fine scale displacements and enables novel devices for tissue stiffness estimation. Related work is focused on non-contrast tissue perfusion measurements with ultrasound. The goal of our beamforming work is to make normal ultrasound images as clear as intraoperative ultrasound, the gold-standard for many applications. We are also developing novel ultrasound transducers to enhance guidance for percutaneous procedures.
Contact Brett Byram

Biomedical Modeling Laboratory (BML)

20090629DD012PI: Michael I. Miga, Harvie Branscomb Professor, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Radiology & Radiological Sciences, and Neurological Surgery, Vanderbilt University

The focus of the Biomedical Modeling Laboratory (BML) is on new paradigms in detection, diagnosis, characterization, and treatment of disease through the integration of computational models into research and clinical practice. With the continued improvements in high performance computing, the ability to translate computational modeling from predictive roles to ones that are more integrated within diagnostic and therapeutic applications is becoming a rapid reality. With respect to therapeutic applications, efforts in deformation correction for image-guided surgery applications in brain, liver, kidney, and breast are being investigated. Other applications in deep brain stimulation, ablative therapies, neoadjuvant chemotherapy, and convective chemotherapy are also being investigated. With respect to diagnostic imaging, applications in elastography, strain imaging, model-based chemotherapeutic tumor response and radio-therapy response parameterizations are also of particular interest. The common thread that ties the work together is that, throughout each research project, the integration of mathematical models, tissue mechanics, instrumentation, and analysis is present with a central focus at translating the information to directing therapy/intervention or characterizing tissue changes for diagnostic value. Contact Michael Miga

Computer Assisted Otologic Surgery (CAOS) Laboratory

photo of Robert LabadiePI: Robert F Labadie, Professor of Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery,  Professor of Biomedical Engineering  

The aim of the CAOS lab is to develop novel methods and tools to improve otologic surgery. Our multi-disciplinary team consists of members with both surgical and engineering backgrounds and expertise in Otolaryngology, Audiology, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Computer Science. We use a variety of medical image analysis, image-guidance and robotic techniques in an effort to decrease the invasiveness of surgery, make surgical procedures safer, and improve patient outcomes. Some of our current projects include: minimally-invasive cochlear implantation surgery, cochlear implant programming based on medical image analysis, assessment of electrode placement and audiological outcomes in cochlear implant patients, robot-assisted bone milling for inner ear access, patient-specific modeling and planning for robotic surgery, natural orifice middle ear endoscopy, and thermal monitoring of surgical procedures.
Contact Robert F. Labadie  View CAOS lab video here: Click here to view VISE affilate lab video

Diagnostic Imaging and Image-Guided Interventions (DIIGI) Laboratory

photo of Kenny TaoPI: Yuankai (Kenny) Tao, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Vanderbilt University

The Diagnostic Imaging and Image-Guided Interventions (DIIGI) Laboratory develops novel optical imaging systems for clinical diagnostics and therapeutic monitoring in ophthalmology and oncology. Biomedical optics enable non-invasive subcellular visualization of tissue morphology, biological dynamics, and disease pathogenesis. Our ongoing research primarily focuses on clinical translation of therapeutic tools for image-guided intraoperative feedback using modalities including optical coherence tomography (OCT), which provides high-resolution volumetric imaging of weakly scattering tissue; and nonlinear microscopy, which has improved molecular-specificity, imaging depth, and contrast over conventional white-light and fluorescence microscopy. Additionally, we have developed optical imaging techniques that exploit intrinsic functional contrast for in vivo monitoring of blood flow and oxygenation as surrogate biomarkers of cellular metabolism and early indicators of disease. The majority of our research projects are multidisciplinary collaborations between investigators in engineering, basic sciences, and medicine. Contact Yuankai (Kenny) Tao   View DIIGI lab video here: Click here to view VISE affilate lab video

Grissom Laboratory: MRI-Guided Focused Ultrasound

Photo of Will GrissonmPI: William Grissom, Assistant Professor Biomedical Engineering, Vanderbilt University

A major research focus of the Grissom laboratory is MRI guidance of high intensity focused ultrasound surgery. MRI-guided high intensity focused ultrasound surgery (FUS) is a promising technique for the next generation of non-invasive therapy systems. One important feature of FUS lies in its ability to apply ultrasound from outside the body, without any skin puncture or incision. The ultrasound energy can be focused to a point within the body, with minimal heating of the intervening tissues. MR imaging is used both for treatment planning and to provide temperature measurements during the procedure. The temperature maps are used both to dynamically control the FUS beam during the procedure, and to assess thermal dose afterwards. Our group is focused on the development of MR imaging methods for FUS surgery guidance, including real-time temperature imaging sequences, algorithms to reconstruct temperature maps, and MRI-based methods to autofocus ultrasound beams through bone and inhomogeneous tissue. We also are interested in the development of imagining techniques to exploit novel temperature contrast mechanisms, and algorithms to dynamically and automatically steer and control the power of the FUS beam. Our current clinical applications are ablation of uterine fibroids and diffuse adenomyosis, anti-tumor immune response modulation of breast cancer, modulation of drug uptake in pancreatic cancer, and tumor and tissue ablation in the brain for functional neurosurgery, blood-brain barrier disruption, and sonothrombolysis for treatment acute ischemic stroke. Contact William Grissom

Medical-image Analysis and Statistical Interpretation (MASI) Laboratory

Photo of Bennett LandmanPI: Bennett Landman, Electrical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Computer Science, Radiology and Image Science, Vanderbilt University

Three-dimensional medical images are changing the way we understand our minds, describe our bodies, and care for ourselves. In the MASI lab, we believe that only a small fraction of this potential has been tapped. We are applying medical image processing to capture the richness of human variation at the population level to learn about complex factors impacting individuals. Our focus is on innovations in robust content analysis, modern statistical methods, and imaging informatics. We partner broadly with clinical and basic science researchers to recognize and resolve technical, practical, and theoretical challenges to translating medical image computing techniques for the benefit of patient care. Contact Bennett Landman  View MASI lab video here: Click here to view VISE affilate lab video

Medical Engineering and Discovery (MED) Laboratory

photo of Robert WebsterPI: Robert J. Webster III, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Otolaryngology, Neurological Surgery, and Urologic Surgery, Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt School of Engineering’s Medical Engineering and Discovery (MED) Laboratory pursues research at the interface of surgery and engineering.  Our mission is to enhance the lives of patients by engineering better devices and tools to assist physicians. Much of our current research involves designing and constructing the next generation of surgical robotic systems that are less invasive, more intelligent, and more accurate. These devices typically work collaboratively with surgeons, assisting them with image guidance and dexterity in small spaces. Creating these devices involves research in design, modeling, control, and human interfaces for novel robots. Specific current projects include needle-sized tentacle-like robots, advanced manual laparoscopic instruments with wrists and elbows, image guidance for high-accuracy inner ear surgery and abdominal soft tissue procedures, and swallowable pill-sized robots for interventions in the gastrointestinal tract.

Contact RobertWebster . View MED lab video here: Click here to view VISE affilate lab video

Medical Image Processing (MIP) Laboratory

Photo of Benoit DawantPI: Benoit Dawant, Professor Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Biomedical Engineering, Radiology and Radiological Sciences

The medical image processing (MIP) laboratory of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) Department conducts research in the area of medical image processing and analysis. The core algorithmic expertise of the laboratory is image segmentation and registration. The laboratory is involved in a number of collaborative projects both with others in the engineering school and with investigators in the medical school.  Ongoing research projects include developing and testing image processing algorithms to (1) automatically localize radiosensitive structures to facilitate radiotherapy planning, (2) assist in the placement and programming of Deep Brain Stimulators used to treat Parkinson’s disease, (3) localize automatically structures that need to be avoided while placing cochlear implants, (4) develop methods for cochlear implant programming or (5) track brain shift during surgery. The laboratory expertise spans the entire spectrum between algorithmic development and clinical deployment. Several projects that have been initiated in the laboratory have been translated to clinical use or have reached the stage of clinical prototype at Vanderbilt and at other collaborative institutions. Components of these systems have been commercialized. Contact Benoit Dawant  View MIP lab video here: Click here to view VISE affilate lab video

Science and Technology for Robotics in Medicine (STORM) Laboratory

Photo of Keith ObsteinDirector STORM Lab USA and PI: Keith L. Obstein, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition; Department of Mechanical Engineering—Vanderbilt University

Director STORM Lab UK and PI: Pietro Valdastri, School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering—University of Leeds; Department of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Divisions of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition—Vanderbilt University

At the STORM Lab we strive to improve the quality of life for people undergoing endoscopy and abdominal surgery by creating miniature and non-invasive capsule robots.

The continuous quest for miniaturization has made the science fiction vision of miniature capsule robots working inside the human body a reality.  At the STORM Lab, we are designing and creating mechatronic and self-contained devices to be used inside specific districts of the human body to detect and cure diseases in a non-invasive and minimally invasive manner.

Capsule robots represent a challenging paradigm for both research and learning.  They embed sensors, actuators, digital intelligence, miniature mechanisms, communication systems, and power supply, all in a very small volume.  Capsule robots may be autonomous or teleoperated, they can work alone or as a team, and they can be customized to fulfill specific functions.  We are currently applying capsule robot technologies to early detection and treatment of gastrointestinal cancers (i.e. colorectal cancer, gastric cancer) and are developing a new generation of surgical robots that can enter the patient’s abdomen by a single tiny incision. Building upon these competences, we are always ready to face new challenges by modifying our capsule robots to emerging medical needs. Contact Keith Obstein