Camera smaller than a drop of water could change surgical imagin - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Camera smaller than a drop of water could change surgical imaging

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Madison (WKOW) -- A new camera invented by UW engineers could change the future of surgery.

Laproscopic surgery has been around for more than 100 years, and the cameras used during the procedure have been around since the 1970s. They're bulky, they're hard to adjust, and they can interfere with the surgical tools. One UW engineer wants to change that.

Thirteen years ago, it was just an idea: “What if we could make these cameras smaller?"

“It needs patience, and it takes time,” said UW engineer Hongrui Jiang. More than a decade, in fact. “I would be lying if I said I had this grand picture from the very beginning."

Now he has a plan to change the future of surgery imaging. “What we're trying to do is to replace the bulky single laproscopic camera with smaller cameras, not a single one but multiple of them,” he said. “Cameras looking at the same scene, from different angles, you can potentially stitch all these scenes together."

It would make 3D images possible during surgery. Those tiny cameras have lenses half a millimeter small. “In many cases smaller is better, but at the same time it's very challenging,” said Jiang.

When asked if he ever thought about giving up on it, Jiang laughed. “Yes! Unfortunately we did.”

That little camera may be a big victory, but he has even smaller plans. “Ultimately we want the cameras to be as big as this,” Hongrui said while holding up the end of a wire fiber. “A surgeon could potentially wear a helmet to control, just like playing a video game."

We're still years away from seeing it in operating rooms. Jiang said further engineering could take five to 10 years. However, they did just get $1.6 million from the National Institute of Health to fund the project. Then they need to go through clinical trials and get FDA approval.

The surgeons he's worked with at UW said this could be groundbreaking.

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