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Powerful New "Eyes" for Surgeons

Surgeons at UC San Diego Medical Center are pioneering non-invasive surgical procedures that eliminate the need to open a patient's abdominal wall - innovations that speed recovery time and significantly reduce pain for abdominal surgeries, such as gall bladder removal. Instead of cutting through the abdominal wall, surgeons deliver the camera, lights and surgical instruments by way of the natural openings in the patient's body - the mouth, vagina or rectum. The surgery is called NOTES or Natural Orifice Translumenal Endoscopic Surgery.

The UC San Diego surgeons want a better camera for NOTES, and for that they turned to engineers from the Jacobs School and Calit2.The team just completed the first prototype, called SurgiCam. The new camera boasts auto-focus and optical zoom - a big improvement over the digital zoom in today's surgical cameras. Optical zoom will give surgeons the ability to change the field of view and obtain some peripheral vision, explains electrical engineering professor Yuhwa Lo. Lo invented the fluid-filled lens that is at the heart of SurgiCam - a lens that incorporates elements of both fish eyes and eagle eyes. The camera also doubles as a microscope, which could improve surgeons' ability to remove cancer tissue.

"This is a successful collaboration between engineers and surgeons," said Mark Talamini, professor and chairman of the School of Medicine's Department of Surgery. "It combines rare local talent in micro-imaging, minimally invasive surgery, computer tech, and wireless transmission of images."

A team led by electrical engineering professor Truong Nguyen is working on a series of real-time image processing advances that will help the engineers keep the camera small. Software running on external computers will handle advanced tasks and functionality that might otherwise be handled by optics hardware inside the camera.

Calit2 engineers Don Kimball and Doug Palmer are working to make the device wireless and to build a novel actuator to control the fluidic lenses.

The SurgiCam team includes students from across UC San Diego including (left to right) Jack Tzeng and Frank Tsai, electrical and computer engineering (ECE) grad students, Calit2 engineer Daniel Johnson, ECE grad student Sung Hwan Cho, and Cameron Francis, a medical student.
The SurgiCam team includes students from across UC San Diego including (left to right) Jack Tzeng and Frank Tsai, electrical and computer engineering (ECE) grad students, Calit2 engineer Daniel Johnson, ECE grad student Sung Hwan Cho, and Cameron Francis, a medical student.

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