Novel technologies for neonatal and paediatric surgery

Over the last few thousand years, human biology has not changed. The basic building blocks of a surgeon is a constant feature, but it has been augmented by the things we have discovered through innovation and research. The core principle of research, innovation, and education should therefore be the creation of super doctors.

The Super Surgeon Programme is headquartered at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital’s innovation hub “The Batcave”. This 1000 m2 underground facility is enhanced with the latest equipment and specialists to design and test these super surgeon technologies.

Alder Hey Children’s Hospital

Alder Hey Batcave



Like Thor, Loki, and Galactus (nothing we can do unfortunately)


Like Superman and The Silver Surfer (also nothing we can do unfortunately)


Like The Hulk and Spiderman (awkward ethics!)


Like Iron Man, $6m Dollar Man, and Batman (possible)


Like Black Widow, Hawkeye, and The Punisher (possible)

So, there are ways we can create super surgeons through the use of enhanced training and technological augmentation of our basic biology

Enter the Super Surgeon Programme

The super surgeon programme is looking for innovative ideas for paediatric surgery and to identify unmet needs. They could be from high end intense surgical procedures to day to day minor procedures that happen in the community or in the home.



Advanced Surgical Wear

Surgical scrubs have remained unchanged for well over half a century. Essentially, they are a set of cotton pyjamas and their only redeeming feature is that they are comfortable. We would be interested to see how this could be improved. Looking at other high performance industries from aeronautics to elite sport, clothing plays an enormous factor in improving performance and outcomes. Why has this not been the case in surgery?


Improved Vision

Surgeons have to operate on very small things with very fine instruments. Currently, we use surgical loupes to magnify our vision. Surgical loupes are essentially like mini binoculars held in front of our eyes by an eyeglass arrangement. Typical magnifications range from 2x to 5x. Unfortunately, these loupes restrict peripheral vision and are heavy to wear. They also have no other integration of technology (HUD, recording etc).



The advent of anti microbial resistance has only reinforced the need to prevent contamination from skin surfaces. Before surgery, we wash our hands and arms in a time honoured tradition called scrubbing. The only problem is that the more you scrub the more bacteria gets dredged up from your filthy skin. Surgeons also use water to scrub, which isn’t the cleanest of substances. Scrubbing takes time, is often done poorly, and can be counter productive. Is there a better way to clean our skin before surgery? Our skin also doesn’t like the constant abuse and we develop dermatitis etc.


Resilience / Psychology

Treating sick children can be incredibly distressing, in addition to the morbidity associated with the typical surgeon character type (perfectionist/high standards). This leads to high levels of burn out and reduced efficiency. Tackling these problems is a relatively advanced field in the sporting world but as yet underused in the medical field.


Simulation / Holodeck / Training

It takes a long time to train a surgeon. Part of the problem is that the outcomes are so important that you can’t just let someone have a go, but then how do you train students? Simulation is therefore very important but still underused in our training programmes. How do you design and implement programs to simulate technical tasks, decision making, stress, etc?


Rota Coordination

Maintaining a safe, consistent, sustainable, and efficient surgical service is a real challenge. Currently, we have issues with creating teams that match this profile without a significant amount of time hand constructing rotas. Creating an algorithmic rota that takes into account fatigue, elective, holidays, study leave, and skill mix is a constant challenge.


Artificial Intelligence

Surgical decision making is difficult at the best of time. The vagaries of human decision-making ability from emotion to stress and fatigue make errors an everyday feature.


Surgical Masks

After about 30 seconds, surgical masks become next to useless. The moisture absorbed penetrates the mark and every further breath creates an aerosol of potentially infective particles that can contaminate the surgical field. Surgical mask are often uncomfortable and impair communication by obstructing the view of the lower face. They also generate a lot of waste in the hospital due to their disposable nature.


Surgical Robots

Surgeons’ hands can shake and once down to a certain scale cannot provide the desired level of accuracy. We also get tired and fatigued during long operations or operations requiring constant applications of force. Surgeons also get fatigued and cannot compensate for patient movement. In addition, human limbs have restricted degrees of movement. Surgical robots so far are slave units reproducing exact movements and are expensive and difficult to operate.


Surgical Ergonomics

Surgeons are forever getting back, shoulder, and neck injuries. Normally due to poor posture and equipment positioning.


Radiation Protection Suits

We use radiation a lot in theatre and have to wear lead gowns to protect ourselves. Unfortunately, they don’t work very well as orthopaedic surgeons have high rates of thyroid cancer (probably because they don’t wear the throat guard as it is uncomfortable). The lead gowns are heavy, hurt after long periods of wear, look terrible, and make you sweat horrendously.


Light in Theatre

Surgical lighting systems are a personal pet hate. They are large, unwieldily, difficult to control, cast shadows when you lean over, burn out camera images, and don’t illuminate deep holes. The list is endless. Even head mounted lights are normally too heavy and the attachments too uncomfortable.


Personalised Instruments / 3D Printing

Our surgical instruments come in standard trays with generic tools on them. We never know what is exactly in the set until it is open and the tools are of varying quality. Surgeons can break or damage instruments, which then get cycled back to a different operating list. In a perfect world, surgeons would have a set of instruments crafted for their own hands.


Focus Helmets / Concentration Medication

During long, stressful, or late night operations, surgeons can lose focus or resolve, impairing the operation and causing psychological harm to the surgeon.


Sterile Field Generator / Areas

Creating a clean area to operate in can be challenging, especially in a surgical emergency. The ability to create sterile fields rapidly and that respond to contamination introduced would be highly beneficial.