surgery doctors transplant slicing 311.
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
A key part of a medical patient’s physical examination is performed
through touch, but the doctor can only glean so much information from what he
feels. That’s why Temple University researchers have created a prototype device
that will not only emulate human tactile sensation, but quantify it as
The tactile imaging sensor has been developed by Chang-Hee Won, an
associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at
“The human hands have this amazing ability to touch something and
tell if it’s soft or hard, if it’s wet, or even it’s temperature,” said Won, who
is also director of the Control, Sensor, Network and Perception Laboratory in
Temple’s College of Engineering. “We’re trying to emulate this tactile sensation
with a device that will actually quantify this by giving us the mechanical
properties of what we are feeling.”
Won said the tactile imaging sensor
could aid doctors when they feel lesions, lumps or tumors while doing physical
exams on patients by detecting the size and shape of the lesion or tumor, as
well as its elasticity and mobility.
“Once a doctor feels a lesion, lump
or tumor, they can use this device to actually characterize the mechanical
properties of the irregularity that they have felt,” he said.
that studies have shown that cancerous lesions and tumors tend to be larger,
more irregular in shape or have harder elasticity. “Using the information
gleaned by our device, we can determine the probability of this lesion or tumor
being either malignant or benign.”
The portable tactile imaging sensor
can be attached to any desktop or laptop computer that has a Firewire cable
port. Equipped with four LED lights and a camera, the 4.5-inch device has a
flexible transparent elastomer cube on the end, into which light is
When the doctor feels an irregularity while giving a patient a
physical exam, he or she can place the sensor against the skin where the
irregularity was felt. The sensor uses the total internal reflection principle,
which keeps the injected light within the elastomer cube unless an intrusion
from a lesion or tumor changes the contour of the elastomer’s surface, in which
case the light will reflect out of the cube.
The sensor’s camera will
then capture the lesion or tumor images caused by the reflected light and they
are processed with a novel algorithm developed by the CSNAP Lab to calculate the
lesion’s mechanical properties.
Won stressed that the device is not
designed to replace such tests as mammograms for breast tumors, but to assist
the primary doctor in initially obtaining key information.
physicians’ offices are not equipped to perform tests such as mammograms,” he
said. “This device would provide the doctor key information by allowing them to
quantify and display the lesion or tumor. With this information, they can decide
whether to monitor it or send the patient to a specialist or hospital for a more
Won said that the device is non-invasive and can
detect lumps or tumors up to 3 centimeters under the skin. “If you can feel it
with your finger, you can see it with this device.”
In addition to the
advantages of being portable and non-invasive, the devise is also inexpensive.
Wan said the prototype costs approximately $500.This article was first published at www.newswise.com