Do we need robotic systems or more affordable devices to improve minimally invasive interventions?

Professor Jenny Dankelman from the Delft University of Technology introduces the challenge of developing a new generation of devices with highly advanced functionality at the tip.


Imagine that it would be possible to treat any patient in an early phase of a disease at any location in the body using tiny instruments that cause limited trauma to healthy tissue. Our challenge is to develop a new generation of devices with highly advanced functionality at the tip.  Examples of devices we have been working on are thin steerable needles and instruments for minimally invasive surgery.  Both robotically and manually steered instruments have been developed.  Results of robotic steerable needles with optical fibers and shape sensing are compared with manually steered ones.

To support training using these instruments, we develop training systems to enable residents to learn outside patients. These training systems are based on fundamental research into the field of eye-hand coordination, haptic feedback and objective assessment methods for psychomotor skills. 

To do something about the unacceptable situation that currently, 5 billion people do not have access to safe surgery and 2 billion people do not have access to surgery at all we started a Safe Global Surgery project to develop high quality, safe and affordable surgical instruments for basic surgery in low resource settings. Moreover, we started to develop affordable instruments to make also minimally invasive surgery possible without the need of a sterile operating room. Especially minimally invasive procedures have many advantages in low-resource settings, because of the reduced risk of infections and quicker recovery.

MISIT group: Within the Minimally Invasive Surgery and Interventional Technology group (MISIT) we work in a multidisciplinary team to improve minimally invasive techniques ( The group consists of mechanical, biomedical, and electrical engineers, industrial designers, and clinicians. The MISIT group works on the development of novel instruments, performs research on the interaction between instrument and tissue and finally, develop methods to improve the interaction between instruments and the users in the operating room environment. The research performed in the MISIT group resulted in 8 spin-off companies. 


About Jenny Dankelman

Jenny Dankelman is professor in Minimally Invasive Surgery and Interventional Techniques at the Delft University of Technology (  She obtained her degree in Mathematics, with a specialisation in System and Control Engineering at the University of Groningen in 1984 and her PhD degree on the dynamics of the coronary circulation at the Delft University of Technology (DUT) in 1989. In 2001 she was awarded the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek chair and shortly after she became head of the Minimally Invasive Surgery and Interventional Techniques group ( Between 2010 and 2014 she was head of the Department of BioMechanical Engineering and in 2013 she became Medical Delta professor.

Her research focuses on minimally invasive surgery, needle interventions and endovascular interventions. Her research group cooperates with several hospitals such as Leiden UMC where she holds a part time professorship position, Erasmus MC Rotterdam and the AMC Amsterdam. Her interests and research projects are in the fields of designing novel medical instruments, haptics, training and simulation systems, and patient safety, with the focus on minimally invasive techniques. Recently she started a number of projects to develop affordable multi-functional surgical instruments and an innovative surgical equipment system that allows minimally invasive surgery without the need for a sterile operating room, which is especially relevant to low-resource settings.