Researchers use coffee grounds to improve nose, throat surgery

Engineers with the University of Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn., improved the accuracy of a scanner used to map the skull of nose and throat surgical patients with six cups of ground coffee.

After detecting inaccuracies in the mapping system, which is used during surgical procedures to help surgeons navigate through cranial structures, researchers sought to improve the precision of a headband used to attach reflective markers to patient skulls. The headband was found to be prone to slipping.

Inspired by prior research, which found robots had an easier time gripping irregular objects when they were filled with coffee grounds, the research team developed a formfitting cap filled with coffee grounds to improve the accuracy of the markers. The cap effectively reduced mapping system targeting errors by 83 percent.

"It's a very clever way — that doesn't involve drilling holes in patients' skulls — to greatly improve the accuracy of the guidance system when we are operating in the middle of a person's skull: a zone where the accuracy of the current system is inadequate," said Paul Russell, MD, assistant professor of otolaryngology at Vanderbilt who collaborated with the engineers on the project.

To learn more about the cap, click here.

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