PURPOSE:: To test the sensitivity and reproducibility of a 25-gauge force-sensing micropick during microsurgical maneuvers that are below tactile sensation. METHODS:: Forces were measured during membrane peeling in a raw egg and the chick chorioallantoic membrane models (N = 12) of epiretinal membranes. Forces were also measured during posterior hyaloid detachment and creation of retinal tears during vitrectomy in live rabbits (n = 6). RESULTS:: With the raw egg model, 0.5 ± 0.4 mN of force was detected during membrane peeling. In the chorioallantoic membrane model, delaminating the upper membrane produced 2.8 ± 0.2 mN of force. While intentionally rupturing the lower membrane to simulate a retinal tear, 7.3 ± 0.5 mN (range, 5.1-9.2 mN; P < 0.001) of force was generated while peeling the upper membrane. During vitrectomy, the minimum force that detached the posterior hyaloid was 6.7 ± 1.1 mN, which was similar to the force of 6.4 ± 1.4 mN that caused a retinal tear. The rate of force generation, as indicated by the first derivative of force generation, was 3.4 ± 1.2 mN/second during posterior hyaloid detachment, compared with 7.7 ± 2.4 mN/second during the creation of a retinal tear (P = 0.04). CONCLUSION:: Force-sensing microsurgical instruments can detect forces below tactile sensation, and importantly, they can distinguish the forces generated during normal maneuvers from those that cause a surgical complication.
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