Current surgical skill assessment methods are often based on the kinematics of manual surgical instruments during tool-tissue interactions. Though kinematic data are generally regarded as a sufficient basis for skill assessment, the inclusion of kinetic information would allow the assessment of measures such as “respect for tissue” and force control, which are also important aspects of surgical proficiency. Kinetic data would also provide a richer data set upon which automated surgical motion segmentation and classification algorithms can be developed. However, the kinetics of tool-tissue interactions are seldom included in assessments, due largely to the difficulty of mounting small sensors — typically silicon strain gauges — onto surgical instruments to capture force data. Electromagnetic (EM) or optical trackers used for kinematic measurement are often tethered, and thus having tethered force sensors also mounted on the same surgical instruments would complicate the experimental process and could affect/distort the acquired data by impeding the natural manual motions of surgeons.
We present a surgical skill assessment platform which places the kinetic sensors in the environment, not on the instruments, to reduce the physical encumbrance of the system to the surgeon. This system can capture kinetic data using a standalone force/torque sensor embedded in a custom designed workspace platform, and kinematic data using EM trackers placed on the instruments. This portable platform enables the empirical characterization of open surgery motion trajectories and corresponding kinetic data without need for a centralized acquisition site, and will eventually be integrated into a completely untethered skill assessment system.