A laparoscopic imaging system from researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison features retractable camera arrays affixed to the lower end of each port inserted into a patient’s abdomen. The technology provides laparoscopic surgeons with a 3D view of the procedure site and allows insertion of surgical instruments through any of the ports.

Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive technique used for procedures in the abdominal area, including surgery on the colon, stomach, esophagus or reproductive organs, among many others. A surgeon conducts the procedure with the assistance of a video camera and long, thin instruments fed through three to five ports, or trocars, placed in small incisions in the abdomen.

The new system centers around retractable microlens arrays — essentially, miniature wireless video cameras — integrated onto the end of each port. When a port is inserted into the body, the cameras will flare out in a ring, allowing the surgeon to use the port simultaneously for imaging and operating.

Using software or voice commands, the surgeon can tune the focus of each camera to adjust the depth of field, which improves the image quality. Multiple cameras on each port provide an immersive, three-dimensional view of the procedure, yet their location near the abdominal wall will help to minimize spatter that ordinarily would accumulate on a traditional camera placed right at the site of the procedure.

The researchers will next focus on developing algorithms for processing the images from multiple cameras and stitching them seamlessly into a single, 3-D view. The team will also build prototypes for laparoscopic simulators.

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