Researchers at the University of Glasgow have received a £6.1m funding boost from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to support the ‘Surgery enabled by ultrasonics’ project.

The research project, being conducted in alliance with Universities of Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds and Southampton, explores new approaches for using ultrasonic tools in complex, robot-assisted surgery.

“The team believes that this type of ultrasonic surgery will facilitate more procedures in out-patient clinics.”

As part of the project, the researchers will create miniaturised ultrasonic devices based on various principles to stimulate the surgical tip. The devices are delivered into the human body via the arms of new surgical robots.

This approach is expected to be minimally-invasive while ensuring better precision and preservation of delicate tissue structures at low force and temperature.

The team believes that this type of ultrasonic surgery will facilitate more procedures in out-patient clinics.

University of Glasgow School of Engineering Ultrasonics professor and the principal investigator on the project Margaret Lucas said: “Many benefits will be delivered from new forms of ultrasonic tools.

“Traditional tools require surgeons to use high forces to cut through bone, for example, where an ultrasonic tool can be tuned to produce an effortless cut. That tuning process also ensures that the ultrasonic device can be tissue selective, able to cut through one tissue without damage to others.”

Lucas further highlighted the lack of understanding into the benefits and damaging effects of high power ultrasonic vibrations interacting with tissue.

The new ultrasonic surgery project will address this challenge by linking the cell and tissue responses with the motion of ultrasound through ultra-high-speed imaging.

Based on the research findings, the researchers will develop miniaturised ultrasonic tools and tentacle-like robots to enable fast, safe and effective complex surgical procedures.