Endolumenal techniques and minimally invasive devices are finding their way from the lab to the clinic. Some concepts are finding their way from science fiction books to the lab. Access limitations in endoluminal and laparoscopic surgery make medical device inventors think about using small tube like robots instead of endoscopic or laparoscopic instruments in the hope of reducing trauma to the body of the patient and the possibility of turning the procedure into an outpatient case.
The prototype robots are cylindrical in design, measuring 12 x 55 mm and can be remote controlled through a joystick interface. Depending on the treatment they are used for, these devices may be inserted with laparoscopic, thoracoscopic or endolumenal techniques, while the surgeon keeps control of the device using intraoperative X-ray, video cameras, ultrasound imaging or a magnetic tracking. The robot itself can provide a video picture if equipped with a camera chip on the tip. Other prototypes use suction legs and by moving the two body segments back and forth relative to one another it crawls across the organ (see pictures above).
So far in heart lab settings with the robots, epicardial lead placement and myocardial dye injection have been accomplished. In gastrointestinal labs the abdominal cavity was entered and biopsies were performed. Will the future see robotic removal of tissue and injection of agents into the organs or vessels and other treatments without ever leaving the comfort of your home?
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