Laboratory Products

Snake-like robot could perform surgery on heart or excise tumours

Jun 08 2012 Comments 0

Researchers in the US have developed a snake-like robot which could perform surgery on the heart or excise prostate tumours.

Snakebot is an ultra-slim device which can crawl inside a small incision and perform surgery, with miniature tools attached which can be controlled by the surgeon. The technology has been developed by Howie Choset, a rambunctious roboticist who has been working on snake-like robots for decades at Carnegie Mellon University.

The device has successfully passed animal testing on pigs, and will now be used on human trials to ensure that it has the same effects. It works by making a small keyhole incision which is used to feed the snake into. The surgeon uses a remote control to guide the snake to the damaged/diseased organ where it then extends its miniature tools and gets to work.

Surgical operations are achievable thanks to the complexity and size of the robot. The head is smaller than the size of a US dime (18mm) and there are 102 joints and a camera installed which allows the robot to navigate with amazing precision.

Medical robots have become an increasingly important aspect of development within the industry. The computer operated machines can often act with greater precision and accuracy than human surgeons, and also reach parts of the body in a non-invasive way.

Robotic hands, arms and snakes have been used by surgeons for over a decade now, largely because of their accuracy, but also because the incisions are smaller, operations are shorter (and thus cheaper), and patients recover faster.

The latest technology carries its own scalpel and forceps, and can perform incredibly complex procedures causing minimal damage or side effects. This version is completely controlled by a surgeon, but the designers believe we are only a few years away from untethered bots that crawl freely around your anatomy.

Posted by Neil Clark

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