Artificial Intelligence for context-aware surgical guidance in complex robot-assisted oncological procedures: An exploratory feasibility study

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INTRODUCTION: Complex oncological procedures pose various surgical challenges including dissection in distinct tissue planes and preservation of vulnerable anatomical structures throughout different surgical phases. In rectal surgery, violation of dissection planes increases the risk of local recurrence and autonomous nerve damage resulting in incontinence and sexual dysfunction. This work explores the feasibility of phase recognition and target structure segmentation in robot-assisted rectal resection (RARR) using machine learning.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: A total of 57 RARR were recorded and subsets of these were annotated with respect to surgical phases and exact locations of target structures (anatomical structures, tissue types, static structures, and dissection areas). For surgical phase recognition, three machine learning models were trained: LSTM, MSTCN, and Trans-SVNet. Based on pixel-wise annotations of target structures in 9037 images, individual segmentation models based on DeepLabv3 were trained. Model performance was evaluated using F1 score, Intersection-over-Union (IoU), accuracy, precision, recall, and specificity.

RESULTS: The best results for phase recognition were achieved with the MSTCN model (F1 score: 0.82 ± 0.01, accuracy: 0.84 ± 0.03). Mean IoUs for target structure segmentation ranged from 0.14 ± 0.22 to 0.80 ± 0.14 for organs and tissue types and from 0.11 ± 0.11 to 0.44 ± 0.30 for dissection areas. Image quality, distorting factors (i.e. blood, smoke), and technical challenges (i.e. lack of depth perception) considerably impacted segmentation performance.

CONCLUSION: Machine learning-based phase recognition and segmentation of selected target structures are feasible in RARR. In the future, such functionalities could be integrated into a context-aware surgical guidance system for rectal surgery.


Original languageEnglish
Article number106996
JournalEuropean Journal of Surgical Oncology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Jul 2023

External IDs

Scopus 85168521449
ORCID /0000-0003-2265-4809/work/149798324