X. Liu, T. Ko, J. Cai, A. Gnatt, L. Yeh, A. Hoffman, D. Summers
Keywords: 3D nano-printing, sensors, medical simulation training, pressure sensor, abdominal palpation training
Summary:Medical simulation training is an essential tool for healthcare professionals to prepare for a wide range of procedures, such as surgery, emergency medicine, and critical care. Recent advancements in technology have made it possible to create high-fidelity medical simulation manikins. However, due to the integration of various functional parts, the current medical manikins are often bulky and have complex electric connections that can be cumbersome and restrict movement, limiting the replication of the complexity of the human body and the variations that can occur in real patients. Additionally, this drawback induces a lack of realistic sensory feedback in key areas such as abdominal palpation, which is a widely used skill by healthcare professionals to identify abnormalities of the organs and structures within the abdominal cavity. To address these limitations, we propose a revolutionary solution utilizing 3D nano printing technology and proprietary nano inks to directly print sensors onto manikin skin, providing unparalleled high-fidelity sensory feedback. The printed sensor containing conductive nanomaterial presents high accuracy and responsivity, essential for delivering realistic sensory feedback. In addition, the thin layer sensors have a flexible and stretchable nature, making the medical manikin more lightweight and durable. In order to validate the feasibility of the 3D-printed sensor, we performed abdominal palpation on our 3D-printed sensor-integrated manikin with physicians. We applied two levels of force on the abdomen (light and deep palpation) by four-quadrant schemes, and recorded the value of force. The results showed that our sensors printed on the manikin skin could measure the force applied on the manikin’s abdomen with the average force ranges of 8-10 lb and 12-16 lb during light and deep abdominal palpation, respectively. The validation of our technology on this application has revealed that the sensors provide exceptional force and position feedback, significantly improving the convenience and effectiveness of training for healthcare professionals. In addition, we further demonstrated that our printed sensors could be used for palpation for actual patients. We printed sensor units on manikin-skin material and further tested with different physicians and nurses and received satisfied responses in terms of comfort from voluntary patients. Additionally, this technology holds immense potential beyond manikins, such as in smart clothing and wearables, where sensors can be printed to monitor vital signs or detect abnormalities in body temperature. As we continue to advance our research, we are actively exploring the possibility of printing temperature and gas sensors into manikin, further enhancing the realism of medical simulation training. Also, we envision that this technology can be applied to a variety of fields such as medical simulation, wearable electronics, epidermal electronic systems, human-machine interfaces, soft robotics, and other health monitoring device.