Science

Yoel Fink, Omni directional dielectric mirror,

US Military Mirror Offers Possibilities for Minimally Invasive Surgery

December 23, 2008 01:55 PM
by Josh Katz
Technology that began as a tool for the military is now providing new opportunities for surgeons to cause their patients less pain and difficulty.

Military Mirror Becomes New Laser Surgery Tool

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Professor Yoel Fink hatched the idea for the “Omni directional dielectric mirror” for the U.S. Department of Defense in 1995 while a 29-year-old student in Material Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Fink, a former commander in the Israeli army, helped the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DAPRA) to realize his plan, creating a “perfect mirror” that “reflects light from all angles and does not absorb any of it,” he said. Such a mirror could deflect laser beams sent by enemies, among other abilities, according to CNN.

Fink’s “perfect mirror” consisted of a tight and thin layering of semiconducting glass and polymers, forming an “omni-reflector.” But, according to CNN, “The most important part of his discovery, however, was that by changing only the thickness and distance of the layers, the ‘perfect mirror’ could reflect any type of electromagnetic energy in any wavelength.”

Realizing that the mirror had potential application in the medical field, Fink realized that surgeons could bounce lasers off a version of the mirror to operate on patients, allowing smaller incisions and less physical intrusion into the patient than traditional surgery. Such a procedure would shorten recovery time and reduce the odds of complications.
“Fink then set about creating a pen-shaped fiber-optic tool that could allow surgeons to easily manipulate the laser and bend it to reach almost any tissue in the body,” according to CNN. Doctors have been performing surgery with lasers for several years, but without such a device they “had to shoot the laser beam directly from its large generator and could do so only at a straight angle, rendering it impossible to reach deeper tissues.”

Fink and his company, Omni Guide, are now trying to introduce his technology to the rest of the world.

Related Topic: New minimally invasive surgery technique

With another new technique for minimally invasive surgery, called single port access, or SPA, surgeons make one incision in the bellybutton instead of the three or four made during laparoscopy, or the traditional form of minimally invasive surgery. SPA could reduce scars, pain and recovery time, according to a recent article from the Houston Chronicle.

“I think this is the wave of the future,” said Dr. Tung Shu, the first urological surgeon in Houston to use SPA.

Surgeons began implementing the procedure last year and, while it is not yet commonly used throughout the United States, it is gaining popularity. “Many see it as a gateway to more advances that could one day lead to no-incision, pain-free surgery,” the Chronicle reports. “Others, however, see it as an attempt to fix something that isn’t broken and have taken a wait-and-see stance.”

Dr. Vadim Sherman, director of the Minimally Invasive Surgery Fellowship program at Baylor College of Medicine, indicated that SPA could be improved with the use of more flexible tools. Instead of the tools with straight shafts, he suggested that, “Specialized tools with flexibility and tips that move with 360-degree motion would be better,” the Chronicle writes.

Reference: Surgery guide

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