Flexible Robot Performs Gallbladder Surgery

Researchers in South Korea have developed a flexible endoscopic robot that allows surgeons to navigate complex environments within the body.

AsianScientist (Sep. 5, 2018) – A flexible endoscopic surgical robot developed at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), South Korea, has been used to perform an operation in a pig for the first time.

The robot, named K-FLEX, has two arms placed at the end of flexible endoscopes which can be precisely controlled due to their robust mini-joint design. The K-FLEX was used to conduct a complicated endoscopic procedure—dissecting a porcine gallbladder.

Professor Kwon Dong-Soo of KAIST and Professor Son Dae-Kyung of the National Cancer Center in South Korea oversaw the operation, during which the K-FLEX, inserted through an incision in the navel, snaked through the narrow passages of the inner organs. Once arriving at the desired spot inside the body, one of the robot arms pushed aside and held up the nearby tissue to secure proper vision and space for the procedure.

Meanwhile, a cautery needle mounted at the tip of the other hand removed the lesion tissue on the gallbladder. The tiny camera installed at the front of the robot arms relayed the internal conditions, allowing the full procedure to be monitored from a master console.

The team believes K-FLEX will be effective for surgery on incipient cancer cells in the stomach, colon and thyroid. They also noted that the ability to perform internal incisions reduces the possibility of complications arousing from excessive bleeding and bacterial infections.

“K-FLEX is the first flexible endoscopic surgery robot in Korea. We have already confirmed its clinical potential through ex vivo tests, and we hope to complete commercialization of the technology in two to three years,” said Kwon, who together with eight other researchers have established a medical technology start-up called EasyEndo Surgical Inc. that will make use of the K-FLEX’s core technologies.


Source: Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.
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