Flexible Robotic Endoscopy Allows for Scarless Surgeries via Mouth

A new flexible robot developed by researchers from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University and National University Hospital has just been successfully used in performing three gastric tumor removal procedures in India.

MASTER (Master And Slave Transluminal Endoscopic Robot), as the system is called, involves inserting an endoscopic robotic arm into the stomach via the mouth, which is then controlled remotely by the surgeon.  The team members involved in the project believe this was the world’s first flexible endoscopy robotic surgery in the stomach.

From the announcement:

A flexible endoscope (small tube inserted in intestinal tracts) which had small robotic arms, was inserted through the patient’s mouth to the stomach, while the surgeon monitored it on a computer screen. Using joystick and buttons to control the robotic arms, the surgeon then removed the cancerous tumour and the patient went home after the operation.

This groundbreaking technology was developed by Associate Professor Louis Phee, Head of the Division of Mechatronics and Design, School of Mechanical and Aerospace at Nanyang Technological University and Professor Ho Khek Yu Lawrence, Senior Consultant at the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, National University Hospital, after six years of research.

By controlling an external console, the surgeon is able to make the robot perform intricate surgical procedures. For the surgeries done in India, the robot is used to perform Endoscopic Submucosal Dissection (ESD): the delicate removal of a tumour embedded in the stomach wall without puncturing the latter

Without this robotic system, a patient is likely to undergo open surgery to remove the tumour. As ESD is considered a very difficult procedure, the robot is easily modified to perform many other procedures within the digestive tract.

This novel procedure also opens up new possibilities for surgery: the robot is able to cut a small hole in the stomach wall to get access to other organs like the liver, kidney, and pancreas to perform intricate surgery. After the surgery is done, it slides back into the stomach, mends the hole in the stomach wall and exits out of the mouth again. It may come a time when a patient goes for surgery and all he or she needs do is open their mouth.

Apart from speeding up the operation process and leaving no scars, this robotic procedure is also significantly cheaper than normal surgery thanks to its precision, dexterity and manoeuvrability. The robotic arms, which is up to six milimeters in diameter, has the capacity to “feel” how hard or soft the delicate tissues of the stomach and intestines are, so doctors at the console can vary the pressure accordingly. The combined diameter of both arms is up to 16 mm.

Link:medgadget.com

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