Newly Developed Robot Performs Colonoscopies

Robot colonoscopy
The robot has been tested on artificial colons and pigs
University of Leeds

The future of medical technology seems to be evolving by the day, with constant innovations and new practices slowly but surely ready to take the world of healthcare treatment that are set to be far greater than ever before. One of the many varying ways that this can be seen is to look no further then a new form of procedure set alter the landscape of colonoscopies forever, as a robot has been developed that can not only perform colonoscopies, but can also make the procedure much more pleasant and efficient.

Pietro Valdastri along with his fellow colleagues at the University of Leeds based in the UK have developed a robotic arm that functions by utilizing a machine learning algorithm to maneuver a probe along the colon. In fact, this probe is a magnetic endoscope which is essentially a tube paired with a camera lens at the tip through which the robot is able to control with the use of a magnet external to the body.

What is interesting to make note of when looking at this robotic system is that not only can it be operated with a human moving a joystick, it can also be used autonomously, both of which help push the endoscopes tip along the colon. Building off the idea of operating this technology with a controller, Valdastri compares the movement to the intuitive motion to that of playing a video game. Furthermore, the system is also able to monitor the location of the endoscope and inside of the colon.

While traditional endoscopes used during colonoscopies often require trained specialists to operate, where “Gastroenterologists often lose sense of where up, down, left and right is” according to Valdastri, in comparison the robotic system utilizes an AI that has been trained on images of the insides of the colon, resembling a tube. As explained by Valdastri “The algorithm is looking for a black circle in the middle of the image,” where he then goes on to state “That black circle is the direction where the tip of the instrument needs to go.”

Having successfully tested this method in an artificial colon as well as in two pigs, researchers believe that this magnetically operated procedure may in fact be less painful than a traditional colonoscopy, possibly one that could be used without the need for sedation.

Moving forward, the research team plans to trial test their procedure in five healthy patient volunteers next year, where if successful they would then perform colonoscopies on those with inflammatory bowel disease effectively replacing the previous existing methods.

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