Hierarchical Task Networks as Domain-Specific Language for Planning Surgical Interventions

  • Andreas Bihlmaier
  • Luzie Schreiter
  • Jörg Raczkowsky
  • Heinz Wörn
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC, volume 302)


The following paper addresses the challenges of defining surgical workflows. Surgical workflows have to deal with medical and technical aspects on different levels of abstraction in order to ensure safety. We propose hierarchical task networks (HTN) as a unifying domain-specific language (DSL) for the definition of surgical workflows. The DSL describes relations and dependencies in state sequences and surgical actions for complex workflows on varying levels of detail. With an HTN planner we are able to decompose high-level steps into primitive actions and identify all possible workflows together with their paths through the intervention. This information can be used to identify missing or inaccurate information in literature and consequently improve the workflow and safety of the surgical intervention. By means of a case study we present a detailed HTN-based DSL for Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy to show the advantage of using our particular approach to workflow modeling.


Surgical workflow Hierarchical task network Domain-specific language Planning 



This research has been supported by the coordination action EuroSurge (Grant No. 288233) funded by the European Commission in the 7th EC framework program and by the German Research Foundation (DFG) within project I05, SFB/TRR 125 “Cognition-Guided Surgery”. The authors thank the DFG and the EU for its financial support.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas Bihlmaier
    • 1
  • Luzie Schreiter
    • 1
  • Jörg Raczkowsky
    • 1
  • Heinz Wörn
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Anthropomatics and Robotics (IAR)Intelligent Process Control and Robotics Lab (IPR), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)KarlsruheGermany

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