Six Cups of Coffee Goes to Your Head, for Surgical Guidance [research study]

A special hat filled with six cups’ worth of ground coffee may make it easier for surgeons to succeed at some kinds of nose and throat surgery. This study presents the news:

Coffee: the key to safer image-guided surgery—a granular jamming cap for non-invasive, rigid fixation of fiducial markers to the patient,” Patrick S. Wellborn [pictured here, not wearing a cap], Neal P. Dillon, Paul T. Russell, and Robert J. Webster, International Journal of Computer Assisted Radiology and Surgery, vol. 12, no. 6,  2017, pp. 1069-1077.

The authors, at Vanderbilt University, report: “Our granular jamming cap surrounds the head and conforms to the contours of the patient’s skull. When a vacuum is drawn, the device solidifies in a manner conceptually like a vacuum-packed bag of ground coffee, providing a rigid structure that can firmly hold fiducial markers to the patient’s skull…. We tested our new approach… Conclusion —The granular jamming cap concept increases the robustness and accuracy of image-guided sinus and skull base surgery by more firmly attaching fiducial markers to the patient’s skull.”

This short video gives a brief, graphic demonstration of how the thing works:

The hat itself is constructed along the same principles used to make an old-fashioned toy called Stretch Armstrong. The toy, shown in this 1994 TV commercial, used a substance other than coffee, though: