Slurpee Inspires Improvements to Surgical Device: Engineering students at UT Austin develop ClearCam, solution for laparoscope obstruction
Inspiration for an invention can be found anywhere, and students at the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin are proof of such statement. The keen graduate students noticed that a Slurpee straw, with it’s shovel-like end, is the perfect size and shape to act as a squeegee for a laparoscope. For the sake of context, a laparoscope is a fiberoptic camera tool used during minimally invasive surgery procedures so surgeons can see the interior of a body. During a procedure, the laparoscope can become foggy and covered with bodily fluids and solids—not exactly ideal when conducting a surgery from the outside.
Under the guidance of associate professor of mechanical engineering Chris Rylander, the students designed a scoop-like shaped device that keeps the view of the internal camera clear. “This is a problem faced by surgeons every day,” said Rylander. “When a laparoscope gets dirty in the body—due to condensation or contact with blood or fatty tissue, visibility is diminished. Surgeons must stop the procedure, pull the laparoscope out of the body, wipe it off and return to the task at hand, extending the time to complete the procedure and simultaneously generating potential safety concerns.” With the increase of antibiotic resistance and MRSA, less time out of the body reduces the risk of short and long-term complications.
Rylander was approached by Dr. John Uecker of UT’s Dell Medical School who was looking for a solution to the obstructed laparoscope problem. The invention is appropriately named the ClearCam. It works by using a geometrically altered polymer that can be controlled externally to remove obstructions from the laparoscope lens without scratching it. The design of the ClearCam is based off previous prototypes that were improved to meet the needs of surgeons across the U.S.
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