Friday, 29 April 2022 12:00

 The Fluid Dynamics of Keyhole Surgery and the Risks to Theatre Staff


The COVID-19 Pandemic has brought the respiratory risks associated with aerosol and airborne droplets into sharp focus. In the context of healthcare, many interventions classed as aerosol generating procedures, were cancelled, or postponed as the loss of medical staff was deemed unacceptable. Surgery was affected, particularly keyhole or laparoscopic surgery. This type of surgery creates an operative volume, pneumoperitoneum, within the abdomen with high-pressure carbon dioxide via insufflation. Long, slender surgical instruments such as cameras, grabbers and electrocautery devices are inserted via valve ports, or trocars. This enables minimal incisions resulting in faster patient recovery times. The use of electrocautery, however, generates smoke which is frequently vented into the operating theatre environment along with CO2 and any aerosol in the pneumoperitoneum. In addition, these pollutants can escape when instruments are exchanged as the valves in the trocars are temporarily defeated and increasingly fatigued as surgery progresses. The Protecting OR Staff from Aerosolised Virus (PORSAV) project aims to tackle this problem using a novel medical device. This talk will focus on the imaging techniques that have been brought to bear during live surgery to help understand the fluid mechanics of gas leaks in laparoscopy.


Kevin Nolan studied Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Limerick and obtained his PhD from the Stokes Institute in 2009 in experimental fluid mechanics and contributed to work on finless heatsink technology thereafter. He subsequently worked at Stokes Bio to develop software and optics for next generation PCR instruments. He was a Marie Curie Fellow at Imperial College London from 2010 to 2012 where he worked with direct numerical simulations of transitional flows developing robust turbulent identification algorithms. He spent several years at Bell Labs Ireland developing cooling technologies for photonics devices,
particularly highly efficient microfluidic mixing of viscoelastic fluids. He has been a member of faculty at the School of Mechanical and Material Engineering at UCD since 2018 where he teaches Mechanics of Fluids and continues his research.

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