Smart Knives: Controlled cutting schemes to enable advanced endoscopic surgery — towards dye-mediated laser ablation. PhD Thesis.
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Smart Knives: Controlled cutting schemes to enable advanced endoscopic surgery — towards dye-mediated laser ablation.

Dr Ifung Lu 2011 PhD Thesis. Department of Medical Physics and Bioengineering University College London


With the backdrop of the rapidly developing research in Natural Orifice Transluminal Endoscopic Surgery (NOTES), analysis of the literature supported the view that inventing new, controlled tissue dissection methods for flexible endoscopic surgery may be necessary. The literature also confirmed that white space exists for research into and the development of new cutting tools.

The strategy of “deconstructing dissection” proposed in this thesis may provide dissection control benefits, which may help address the unique manoeuvring challenges for tissue dissection at flexible endoscopy.

This assertion was supported by investigating six embodiments of the strategy which provided varying degrees of enhanced tissue dissection control. Seven additional concepts employing the strategy which were not prototyped also were offered as potential solutions that eventually might contribute evidence in defence of the strategy.

One concept for selective ablation — dye-mediated laser ablation — was explored in-depth by theoretical analysis, experimentation and computation. The ablation process was found to behave relatively similar to unmediated laser ablation, but also to depend on cyclic carbonisation for sustained ablation once the dye had disappeared.

An Arrhenius model of carbonisation based on the pyrolysis and combustion of wood cellulose was used in a tissue ablation model, which produced reasonable results.

Qualitative results from four methods for dye application and speculation on three methods for dye removal complete the framework by which dye-mediated laser ablation might deliver on the promise offered by “deconstructing dissection”.

Overall, this work provided the “deconstructing dissection” strategic framework for controlled cutting schemes and offered plausible evidence that the strategy could work by investigating embodiments of the scheme.

In particular, dye-mediated laser ablation can provide selective ablation of tissue, and a theoretical model for the method of operation was offered. However, some practical hurdles need to be overcome before it can be useful in a clinical setting.

Motivation and context

This PhD project was conducted from 2006-2011 at UCL with a generous grant from UCL + UK government through an Overseas Research Student scholarship.

It was part of an exploration by the author of open design for medical devices and research.


If you would like to contribute to this work, please feel free to fork the project. The source files for the PDF and (hopefully) design specifications and drawings in an open format are forthcoming.


If you are interested in contributing a translation of the book (yes please!), please contact the author and let's coordinate!


This book is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

This means that you are free to download, read and use the contents of this project. You also can create and distribute derivative works, but only under the same or compatible license, and attribution to the author must be given. Both personal and commerical use is allowed.

Copyright Ifung Lu 2011.