Magnetic Actuation of Surgical Instruments

Exploring magnetic coupling to transmit forces in order to control surgical instruments

Local magnetic actuation to transfer controlled mechanical power

Storm Lab has developed strong experience in exploiting the magnetic coupling for medical applications, as this phenomenon can be harnessed to transmit motions across a physical barrier. Our aim is to apply the engineering knowledge on magnetic coupling to transmit forces across the abdominal wall, reducing the number of incisions to one, and exploiting the magnetic coupling in order to control surgical instruments.


In particular, this approach enables multiple fully insertable surgical instruments deployed through a single tiny incision, which move around inside the abdomen without access-point constraints. However, reliable and precise control of magnetic surgical tools is challenging due to the rapid decay of magnetic field strength with distance (which is particularly significant for obese patients) and to the challenge of modelling interaction with human tissues.


We propose local magnetic actuation as promising approach to transfer controlled mechanical power across the abdomen to multiple miniature devices, operating in the confined abdominal cavity. Our strategy consists of an external driving system controlling the pose of a set of permanent magnets outside the patient, causing controlled motion of magnetically coupled surgical tools inside the patient, without direct penetrations through the abdominal wall.

Relevant Publications

C. Di Natali, J. Buzzi, N. Garbin, M. Beccani, P. Valdastri, “Closed-Loop Control of Local Magnetic Actuation for Robotic Surgical Instruments”, IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 2015, Vol. 31, N. 1, pp. 143-156. [ PDF]

N. Garbin, C. Di Natali, J. Buzzi, E. De Momi, P. Valdastri, “Laparoscopic Tissue Retractor Based on Local Magnetic Actuation”, ASME Journal of Medical Devices, 2015, Vol. 9, 011005-1-10. [ PDF] [AWARD]

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