The Perk Lab - Laboratory for Percutaneous Surgery

A large and growing family of medical interventions involves the placement of some linear surgical instruments. Typical examples include needle based aspirations, injections, local ablation therapies, brachytherapy, but “virtual needles” like high energy X-ray and laser beams are also commonly applied. The majority of these interventions today are performed percutaneously (i.e., across the skin). Recently, a rapidly growing variety of these procedures have been deployed via alternative access routes from within body cavities (rectum, sinus, throat), as well as the vascular and gastro-intestinal systems. Typical guidance methods are computed tomography, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, and fluoroscopy. Our lab focuses on development of enabling technology for image-guided percutaneous and intra-cavity procedures. An important aspect of our research is translation of these systems and technologies to clinical trials, through partnership with world-class clinical experts and industry partners in Canada, U.S.A, and beyond.


Multidisciplinary Environment

Our research subject is highly interdisciplinary, spanning across computer science, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and clinical sciences, primarily radiology, radiation oncology and surgery within. Students and postdocs in the Perk Lab come from these disciplines and thus are often co-advised by multiple faculty members and collaborators. Our research program leverages an extensive network of clinical and engineering collaborators worldwide. As I often put it to my students: “If you learn only from me, then you will know only as much as I know, and that is not progress.”

Specific skills taught include medical image analysis (segmentation, registration), motion analysis, pattern recognition, machine learning, physical interfaces (mechatronics, surgical robots, force and position sensors), therapy planning and optimization, system engineering (computer graphics, user interface design, clinical ergonomics). Students take part in implementation, integration and validation, supported by professional research engineers. While tackling fundamental scientific problems, students also participate in translating their technologies to clinical trials on human subjects. These activities  expose them to medical imaging, medical physics, anatomy, oncology, surgery and many hands-on problems arising from the clinical sciences.

Close partnership with industry helps to infuse a practical perspective, so that our research projects are not only scientifically novel, technologically innovative and clinically relevant, but also envision commercialization. The Perk Lab has filed over 20 patents and inventions. Students were co-inventors in 80% and lead inventors in 50% of these, learning about the life cycle of intellectual property in practice.

Strategic and Collaborative Opportunities

Image-guided computer-assisted surgery is an inherently interdisciplinary subject. The Perk Lab specializes in translational clinical engineering research that connects with numerous clinical specialties. The Perk Lab is regarded as a world leader in open source image-guided intervention research software and systems, which places my outfit in a unique position to interact with researchers literally around the globe and engage in a wide spectrum of collaborations.

A recent Computer-Integrated Surgery Graduate Exchange Program between the computer-integrated surgery programs at Queen’s and Johns Hopkins allow Perk Lab students to move between the two universities. Students, depending on their particular projects and availability of research funding, can be located at either side and are mentored by multiple faculty, with full transparency between the two locations of the Perk Lab. They can take courses and carry course credits, in both ways. This is a unique opportunity for Perk Lab students who can benefit from working with a vast network of partners in world’s best hospital and biomedical engineering program at Johns Hopkins. 

The Perk Lab is a charter member in an array of collaborative groups, centres and consortia, both domestically and internationally. Dr. Fichtinger is a faculty member in Computing, Surgery, Electrical and Computer Engineering and Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Queen’s and in Computer Science and Radiology at the Johns Hopkins University. These appointments continue to afford the Perk Lab  with a wide variety of interdisciplinary collaboration opportunities, some of those outlined below:

Queen’s Collaborations

The Perk Lab participates in the Biomedical Computing Group (6 faculty labs, School of Computing), the Biomedical and Intelligent Systems Group (7 faculty labs, ECE) and the Human Mobility Research Center. As a member of the Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Fichtinger collaborates with clinical colleagues in Surgery (Drs. Rudan, Pichora, Borschneck, Engel, Wallace, Cook, Levy), Anesthesiology (Drs. Jaeger, Sydor), Urology (Drs. Siemens, Beiko), Pathology (Dr. Berman), Radiation Oncology (Drs. Schreiner, Falkson, Joshi), Emergency medicine (Drs. McGraw, Rang, McKaigney), At the Clinical Simulation Centre, the Perk Lab collaborates with Drs. Reznick and McGraw in medical education technology research toward translating the School of Medicine onto a Competency-based Medical Education curriculum model.

Canadian Collaborations

  • Cancer Care Ontario Applied Cancer Research Unit. Dr. Fichtinger is the PI of this consortium with the mandate to develop and disseminate an open source software platform for translational clinical research and system prototyping in radiation oncology and adjuvant image-guided intervention and surgeries. The primary consortium members are Queen’s, Western University and the University Health Network (Toronto). Major collaborators include University of British Columbia, Harvard University (USA), Johns Hopkins University (USA), Medical University of Vienna (Austria), Instituto de Ingeniería Eléctrica (Uruguay) and the University of Western Australia under the Matariki Network. 
  • Ontario Consortium for Adaptive Image Guided Radiation Oncology. This consortium pulls together world-class research power in adaptive radiation therapy. The combined research capacity of the 20 industry co-funded investigator groups represents well over half of the radiation therapy treatment capacity of the entire province of Ontario. The Perk Lab leads the consortium’s efforts in developing a “Shared Open Source Translational Research Platform for Adaptive Radiation Oncology”, working in a de-facto collaboration with all the investigator groups comprised in the consortium.

International Collaborations

  • Center for Computer Integrated Systems and Technologies, USA ( established in 1998 as the largest medical robotics and computer-assisted surgery development hub. Since 2007, the has center fused into the Laboratory of Computational Robotics and Sensing (LCSR, Dr. Fichtinger is Co-PI on three major collaborative RO1 research programs with the Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering and Johns Hopkins Hospital, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
  • National Alliance for Medical Image Computing, USA ( the world’s largest and most successful effort in open source software platform development for medical image computing and visualization. The resulting Slicer platform has had over 160,000 downloads in the past 12 months alone. The Perk Lab leads in SlicerIGT open source software platform extension for image-guided therapy and participates in the competitive renewal application of the Alliance, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
  • National Center for Image Guided Therapy, USA ( the world’s leading centre in magnetic resonance image guided therapy. Dr. Fichtinger is  a member of the Advisory Board and Co-PI of the center’s Biomedical Research Partnership program on “Enabling Technologies for MRI-guided Robotic Interventions”, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
  • Austrian Center of Medical Image Technology, Austria ( one of the few European Union Competence Centres with a dozen academic institutions and over 20 industry partners spread on three continents. Dr. Fichtinger is a Key Researcher in the Medical Robots Thrust and Co-PI of the “Image-guided Robotic Gynecological Implants” project, conducted in partnership with the Medical University of Vienna (Austria) and Nucletron Corporation (Netherlands). 

Research Support

The Perk Lab has been supported by a diverse portfolio of Canadian, USA and European grants, as well as research and development grants and contrtacts from various industry partners.

Lab Directors

Gabor Fichtinger, PhD, Director

Professor, Cancer Care Ontario Research Chair, Queen’s University
Adjunct Professor, Johns Hopkins University

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Andras Lasso, PhD, Associate Director (Engineering) 

Senior Research Scientist, School of Computing, Queen's University

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Tamas Ungi, MD, PhD, Associate Director (Clinical Translations) 

Senior Research Scientist, Adjunct Assistant Professor, School of Computing & Surgery, Queen's University

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7th Floor, Goodwin Hall, School of Computing, Queen's University, 25 Union St, Kingston, ON

  • Room 747 - Main Office room and Conference Room
  • Room 757 - Student Offices
  • Room 750 - Image Guided Surgery Lab
  • Room 725 - Director's Office

Watkins Building Room 4-3-311 - iKnife/DESI Mass Spectrometry Tissue Analysis Lab