3D-Printed Electrosurgical Grasper for Laparoscopy

Controlling blood loss is a major challenge during laparoscopic surgery. In an effort to control blood loss, electrosurgical tools are often used. In current electrosurgical instruments, a high frequency electrical sinusoidal wave is passed through the patient’s body from an active electrode to a return electrode to minimize bleeding. Depending on the exact configuration of the electrosurgical instrument, it can be used to coagulate, cut, or destroy the tissue.

Even though current bipolar electrosurgical instruments have proven effective in minimizing blood loss, advancement is needed to improve the dexterity and adaptability of these instruments. With current advances in 3D-print processes and its integration in the medical field it has become possible to manufacture patient- and operation-specific instruments. Furthermore, by combining 3D-print technology with smart joint designs, the dexterity of the instruments can be significantly improved.

In order to overcome these challenges, we have developed the first 3D-printed steerable bipolar grasper (5 mm), named Volt, for use in laparoscopy. This 3D-printed design allows for easy adjusting of the geometry of the shaft and tip based on the patient’s anatomy and operation requirements. The grasper significantly improves dexterity by the addition of two planar joints allowing for ±65° for sideways and ±85° for up- and downwards movement. Furthermore, due to smart joint design, high bending stiffness of  4.0 N/mm for joint 1 and 4.4 N/mm for joint 2 is achieved, which is significantly higher than that of currently available steerable instruments. The tip consists of two 3D-printed titanium movable jaws that can be opened and closed with angles up to 170° and allows for grasping and coagulating of tissues. In order to actuate the joint, tip, and electrosurgical system, as well as to tension the steering cables, a ring handle was designed similarly in design to the one of Dragonflex.

In a proof-of-principle experiment, Volt was connected to a electrosurgical unit (Erbe) and was able to successfully coagulate fresh pig liver. Tissue temperatures of over 75 °C were achieved with an activation time of ~5 s.