RoboELF for laryngeal surgery

Robotic trans-oral surgery was introduced by Intuitive's 3 mm TORS tools. "The patient pool for laryngeal surgery is large, as over 25,000 new cases of throat cancer are reported every year in the US, resulting in approximately 6,000 deaths per year.
Since the throat area is fraught with complications for many cancer treatment techniques, such as radiation and chemotherapy, but relatively accessible to surgical techniques, a surgical approach is often taken. Two main surgical techniques are used: conventional surgery, and intra-airway surgery. Intra-airway surgery has many advantages over conventional surgery, including faster healing, less chance of infection, less visible scarring, and less risk of complications, but due to the confined space and poor visibility in the airway, such surgeries are often difficult and time consuming to perform. These difficulties can be partially overcome by using a flexible laryngoscope with a working port, but the problem of adequately controlling the scope with millimeter accuracy for sometimes hours at a time remains.
The RoboELF project at Hopkins LCSR seeks to solve this problem by using a robot to control the laryngoscope, thus allowing the surgeon to bypass the details of actuating the scope and focus on the higher level goals of the operation.
 The main goal of this project is to create a robotic scope manipulation system for laryngeal surgery. The be clinically useful, such a system would need to:     
  • have equal or superior precision to manual scope manipulation     
  • pass all clinical regulatory requirements     
  • be rugged enough to withstand typical operating room conditions     
  • hold the scope steady even when the surgeon releases the system to attend to other tasks     
  • be easy and simple for users with little or no technical background to set up and use     
  • introduce no unnecessary risks into the procedure.
Their approach includes a custom built robot to manipulate the endoscope and a software system to allow the surgeon to easily manipulate the scope using only one hand. The RoboELF is a cheap and simple solution to partially automate a simple surgical task.
More details at the project website.

Image credit: JHU


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