|Researchers at KAIST operate the flexible endoscopic surgical robot K-FLEX|
KAIST researchers have successfully developed a snake-like, flexible endoscopic surgical robot and used it to conduct surgery on a live pig by removing its gallbladder, the university said Thursday.
The team led by Professor Kwon Dong-soo, who is also director of the Center for Future Medical Robotics at KAIST, developed the flexible endoscopic surgical robot called the K-FLEX.
The K-FLEX can be inserted into the body through the mouth, anus, and urethra and freely observe the body’s insides.
Conventional commercialized surgical robots are problematic in that they have “straight” surgical tools and require having to cut three to four holes in the abdomen.
The K-FLEX doesn’t require external incisions, thereby reducing the risk of bleeding, bacterial infection, and other complications. KAIST stressed that all parts and software of the K-FLEX was developed with domestic technology.
Despite these advantages, the skill required to complete surgery is high while the robot must be able to move flexibly and exert a large force to enter the curved parts of the human body, making it subject to more spatial constraints than conventional surgical robots.
To solve these problems, the research team developed a robust miniaturized joint technology. Dr. Hwang Min-ho, a principal researcher, more than doubled the strength of the tiny robot arm while reducing its size by half, according to KAIST.
In the case of an abnormality, the miniature finger-like robot arm comes out to perform a surgical operation.
Researchers at KAIST used the surgical robot to complete the preclinical trial on a pig in July. In the experiment, researchers removed the gallbladder by inserting K-FLEX into the abdominal cavity. The surgical robot was inserted through the incision made on the surface of the pig’s stomach and flexed in various directions and angles to approach the liver and gallbladder where the lesion was located.
|KAIST researchers perform the nation’s first endoscopic surgery on a live pig.|
Researchers then passed a small 3.7 mm surgical instrument to remove the gallbladder.
All procedures were monitored through a camera installed in the front of the endoscope and executed through a remote control device.
"This experiment is significant in that it is the first time in Korea where a flexible endoscopic surgical robot was moved through the abdominal cavity of a living animal to approach the lesion - confirming the possibility of clinical application," Professor Kwon Dong-soo who oversaw the study said.
This study is expected to contribute to reducing social costs related to cancer treatment along with developing the domestic soft endoscopy market which depends mainly on imports, KAIST said.
Professor Kwon’s research team set up a firm called Easy Endo Surgical this year based on the core technology. The firm is developing various surgical robots, including K-FLEX. The team also won the Best Application Award and the Overall Winner at the Surgical Robot Challenge 2018 that opened in June in London.
<© Korea Biomedical Review, All rights reserved.>