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* cited by examiner
METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR SURGICAL
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Technical Field
The invention relates to medical devices. More particularly, the invention relates to a method and apparatus for surgical electrocautery.
2. Description of the Prior Art 10 Electrocauterization is the process of cauterizing, coagulation, and/or destroying tissue with electricity. A small probe with an electric current running through it is used to cauterize (burn or destroy) the tissue. The procedure is frequently used
to divide tissue structures in a fashion which is hemostatic 15 (seals blood vessels, thereby preventing bleeding). See, for example, Y. C. Jou, M. C. Cheng, J. H. Sheen, C. T. Lin, P. C. Chen, Electrocauterization of bleeding points for percutaneous nephrolithotomy, Urology 64(3):443-6 (September 2004). The use of electrocautery has been extremely benefi- 20 cial for the performance of surgical procedures, such as hysterectomy (the surgical removal of the uterus), where relatively long spans of tissue must be sealed and divided to remove the organ. Experiments to date with a set or sets of single continuous electrode pairs running the length of a 25 device's long jaws have resulted in inconsistent arterial sealing and tissue cauterization. These inconsitent outcomes are likely due to inconsistent electrode contact with the long (1-15 cm), complext tissue sheets. That is, while the electrodes and their backing surfaces are rigid, the tissue sheets 30 are highly variable in their thickness and composition, given that the tissue sheets frequently contain arteries, veins, nerves, ligaments, lymphatics, etc.
To achieve sealing along the entire tissue length, the electrode or its backing surface must be conformable, but also 35 must still be able to deliver adequate force to produce an adequate electrocautery seal. While a compressible material, such as a polymer or foam, can work, these materials do not transfer consistent force because the compressed regions of the material exert higher force than in those regions where 40 tissue is thinner, and the material is less compressed.
One solution in addition to the incorporation of conformable electrodes is to create multiple electrodes, where each electrode may have a different sealing profile, either from an electric power or energy standpoints, or from a conformabil- 45 ity standpoint; and/or electrodes with a conformal surface, either under the electrode or as a standoff to the sides of the electrodes. While this approach is promising, there is still more to do.
It would therefore be advantageous to provide a surgical 50 electrocautery method and apparatus that achieves sealing along the entire tissue length, and that also is able to deliver adequate force to produce an effective electrocautery seal.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION 55
The invention provides a surgical electrocautery method and apparatus that achieves sealing along the entire tissue length, and that also is able to deliver adequate force to produce an effective electrocautery seal. One way to solve 60 this problem is by using an incompressible fluid contained in sac positioned to support the one or more electrodes used for electrocauterization. The profile of the electrodes thus conforms to the tissue surface and thickness variations, while exerting an equal pressure along the entire length of the 65 surface. Alternative embodiments of the invention comprise the use of various gels, either contained within a sac or in
place and not contained within a sac; and various arrangements of springs and combinations of springs and fluid substrates upon which the electrodes are placed. The invention also contemplates the unique forming electrodes on the fluid filled sac itself, for example by sputtering, spraying, or dipped coating; as well as the use of various springs as conformance members and as conductors, i.e. electrodes.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 is a side view of an electrocautery device according to a first embodiment of the invention; and
FIG. 2 is a side view of second embodiment of an electrocautery device according to the invention.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
The invention provides a surgical electrocautery method and apparatus that achieves sealing along the entire tissue length, and that also is able to deliver adequate force to produce an effective electrocautery seal. One way to solve this problem is by using an incompressible fluid contained in sac positioned to support the one or more electrodes used for electrocauterization. The profile of the electrodes thus conforms to the tissue surface and thickness variations, while exerting an optimized pressure along the entire length of the surface. Alternative embodiments of the invention comprise the use of various gels, either contained within a sac or in place and not contained within a sac; and various arrangements of springs and combinations of springs and fluid substrates upon which the electrodes are placed. The invention also contemplates the unique forming electrodes on the fluid filled sac itself, for example by sputtering, spraying, or dipped coating; as well as the use of various springs as conformance members and as conductors, i.e. electrodes.
FIG. 1 is a side view of an electrocautery device according to a first embodiment of the invention.
The invention may comprise a fluid filled sac. The fluid may comprise, for example, a liquid, such as saline or Ringer's solution, or another biocompatible liquid or gel. Biocompatibility is desired due to the potential for rupture of the liquid or gel-containing portion of the inventive sac. One or more electrodes are mounted to the liquid filled sac. The sac, or balloon, can either be pre-filled with liquid or gel, or filled once it has been delivered to the site at which the electrocautery (electrosealing) is to be performed. Thus, the amount of liquid or gel contained in the sac may be adjusted as desired for the application to which the device is put. The sac itself may be made from any biocompatible material, such as a surgical rubber or vinyl material, as is known in the art. The material should also be non-conductive and heat resistant. Further, the sac may be either a flexible, leak proof covering for a well formed within the jaws of an electrocautery device, or it may be a balloon-like sac that entirely contains the liquid or gel and that is attached to a j aw of the electrocautery device.
The device of FIG. 1 comprises a pair of jaws 10,12, each of which comprises a rigid support member. The jaws are movable between a first, closed position for clamping a tissue therebetween for electrocautery and a second, open position. The manner for effecting this movement is not shown in the figures and is considered to be a matter of choice for the person skilled in the art.
At least one of the jaws comprises a liquid or gel filled sac 13, 14. In this embodiment, a single electrode 15 may be provided on either side of the device jaws, or a plurality of electrodes 16a-l 6i may be provided on one or both jaws of the device. In the case of individual electrodes, the electrodes
may be of varying lengths and thicknesses. Further, the materials from which the electrodes are formed may be varied, all based on the sealing needs of the tissue in the specific region to be sealed.
FIG. 1 shows a first jaw comprising a liquid or gel filled sac 5 having a plurality of electrodes attached thereto, with a secondjaw comprising a single (ormultiple) return electrode(s). Those skilled in the art will appreciate that a fluid filled sac may be provided on either or both jaws, or on just portions of one or both jaws. The sacs may be filled with a liquid, gel, 10 small particles, compressed gas, or any combination thereof, although an incompressible fluid is presently preferred and a compressed gas would not be appropriate for many applications to which the device is intended to be put. Nonetheless, a compressed gas is contemplated as one medium for filling the 15 sacs that is within the scope of the invention.
Key to the invention is that the electrodes overlay a conforming substrate which forms a portion of the jaw with which the electrode is associated. A liquid or gel filled sac allows liquid or gel to be displaced in regions beneath the 20 electrodes that contact tissues that are thicker, for example, and thus fill in those regions of the sac that underlay tissue contacted by the electrodes that is thinner. Thus, thicker tissues push electrodes into the sac and thus force the liquid or gel to push the electrodes at or near the thinner tissue closer to 25 the tissue at these locations. In this way, conformity of the electrodes to the tissue is achieved. This is advantageous not only during initial contact of the electrodes with the tissue to offset variations in the thickness of the tissue, but also as the process of cauterization proceeds and the thickness of the 30 tissue is altered. That is, as the tissue is cauterized, some regions that are thicker may become thinner. Because the thickness profile of the tissue is altered in an unpredictable fashion by the cauterization process, the ability of the electrodes to conform with the tissue becomes an important factor 35 in assuring even and complete cauterization across the span of tissue that is clamped between the jaws of the device for cauterization.
In other embodiments of the invention, the sac may be partitioned, based upon a profile of the tissue or electrodes. 40 For example, the sac may have one portion that contains more liquid or gel and that thus presents those electrodes to the tissue somewhat more displaced from the jaw than electrodes associated with a portion of the sac that is less highly filled. This differential in liquid or gel contained in the sac partitions 45 provides a profile to the electrodes that more nearly matches the thickness/thinness of the tissue, and yet allows for conformity of the electrodes within each region. That is, partitioning the sacs serves to both predispose the electrodes to a thinner or thicker tissue, while retaining the ability of the 50 electrodes to conform to local variations in the tissue thickness.
Further, the partitions within the sac may be communicatively coupled to allow a restricted flow of liquid or gel therebetween. The restriction allows some redistribution of 55 the liquid or gel between the sacs, and yet provides for a differing electrode profile at different regions along the length of the jaws.
An alternative embodiment that approximates the desired results uses a gel or foam material, or mechanical spring 60 geometry either in one or more sacs or, in the case of a gel having more mechanical integrity, i.e. solidity, or as one or more stand-alone mounting materials that replaces the sac entirely and upon which the electrodes are disposed.
The sac material itself can constitute the electrode, as well 65 as functioning to contain the incompressible fluid. In this embodiment of the invention, a thin coating of a conductive
material or a coating filled with conductive material can be preferentially applied onto a portion of the surface of the sac that comes into contact with the tissue to be sealed. The conductive material can be applied by any known technique, such as sputtering, spraying, photolithography, or dipped coating. Further, the material can be patterned when applied, such that a plurality of electrodes may be formed, and where the electrodes each have a different shape, size, or other constitution, as desired. The leads necessary to connect the electrodes to a power source may be formed in this matter as well. This embodiment of the invention avoids the problems that may occur where the sac provides a conformal substrate for the electrodes, but the electrodes are formed of relatively rigid material that defeats the conformal nature of the sac. Electrodes that are formed integrally on the surface of the sac according to this embodiment of the invention are always in conformance with the surface of the tissue to which they are contacted because they are part of the sac itself.
In other embodiments of the invention, the conformal material contained within a sac may be a solid polymer based material which provide increased pressure on the thickest tissue, for example where the arteries are located. In these locations, it is necessary to provide the most sealing force and, therefore, the most energy must be transmitted through the device to the tissue. In the embodiment employing a polymer based material, the material may have a surface pattern that is provided to optimize conformity while maintaining adequate support for the tissue to hold the tissue intact after the tissue is cauterized, for such procedures as cutting or sectioning the tissue, the surface pattern may be formed by any of molding, cutting, patterning, and the like, and may provide any desired topological relief, such as a pattern of bumps, notches, projections, ridges, weaves, depressions, and the like. Further, such surface patterning is not limited to the poly based material, but may also be employed with sacs and other conformance members.
In this embodiment of the invention, a balanced set of material properties in the conformal material insures intimate contact with varying tissue thicknesses from less than 1 millimeter to 1 centimeter or more to insure uniform sealing of the tissue, and also to exert the highest pressure in the area where it is needed most, i.e. the thickest region of the tissue. In one embodiment of the invention, the balancing of types of conformal materials provided to provide a profile of pressure is accomplished by a hybrid of technologies, such as a combination of liquids, gels, solid polymers, and springs (see below). For example, the embodiment of the invention which contemplates compartments within the sac may comprise a different material in each sac, where those portions of the device that contact areas of the tissue, such as arteries, are provided with a portion of the sac that is filled with a material that provides greater pressure to the tissue. Alternatively, such portions of the tissue may be confronted by a spring, or a spring may underlies a portion of the sac in those regions where additional pressure must be provided. Further, the substrate upon which the sac is placed could be profiled such that the fluid within the sac is predisposed to exert greater pressure at certain regions of the sac where such additional pressure is desired.
FIG. 2 is a side view of second embodiment of an electrocautery device according to the invention. This embodiment of the invention comprises a pair of jaws 21,22, as above, and approximates the desired results mechanically by using springs, which may be, for example, coil springs 25 or leaf springs 26 (one example shown), or a combination thereof (as shown in FIG. 2), to effect compliance of the electrodes to the tissue. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that other types