Robotic Endoscope Control via Autonomous Instrument Tracking
Many keyhole interventions rely on bi-manual handling of surgical instruments, forcing the main surgeon to rely on a second surgeon to act as a camera assistant. In addition to the burden of excessively involving surgical staff, this may lead to reduced image stability, increased task completion time and sometimes errors due to the monotony of the task. Robotic endoscope holders, controlled by a set of basic instructions, have been proposed as an alternative, but their unnatural handling may
... rease the cognitive load of the (solo) surgeon, which hinders their clinical acceptance. More seamless integration in the surgical workflow would be achieved if robotic endoscope holders collaborated with the operating surgeon via semantically rich instructions that closely resemble instructions that would otherwise be issued to a human camera assistant, such as "focus on my right-hand instrument". As a proof of concept, this paper presents a novel system that paves the way towards a synergistic interaction between surgeons and robotic endoscope holders. The proposed platform allows the surgeon to perform a bimanual coordination and navigation task, while a robotic arm autonomously performs the endoscope positioning tasks. Within our system, we propose a novel tooltip localization method based on surgical tool segmentation and a novel visual servoing approach that ensures smooth and appropriate motion of the endoscope camera. We validate our vision pipeline and run a user study of this system. The clinical relevance of the study is ensured through the use of a laparoscopic exercise validated by the European Academy of Gynaecological Surgery which involves bi-manual coordination and navigation. Successful application of our proposed system provides a promising starting point towards broader clinical adoption of robotic endoscope holders.