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Cutting-Edge Robotic Bronchial Endoscopic System Provides Prompt Intervention during Emergencies

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 06 May 2024
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Image: The robotic bronchial endoscope system is designed to treat individuals with obstructed airways (Photo courtesy of KIMM)
Image: The robotic bronchial endoscope system is designed to treat individuals with obstructed airways (Photo courtesy of KIMM)

A novel robotic bronchial endoscopic system has been developed to minimize side effects and provide timely intervention for airway obstructions caused by food or foreign bodies in infants, young children, or the elderly. This system is anticipated to be particularly valuable in emergencies, as it can reduce the number of medical personnel required to manage airway blockages.

The advanced robotic bronchial endoscopic system developed by a team of engineers at Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials (KIMM, Daejeon, Korea) includes multidirectional endoscopic forceps, ocular position tracking capabilities, and foot pedal control. During a clinical trial with a miniature pig, the research team successfully removed a foreign object from the bronchus using this system. The engineers at KIMM designed this innovative system by adapting technology from surgical robots that control camera direction and applying it to a flexible bronchoscope—a thin, flexible medical instrument used for examining and treating conditions inside the lungs. This advanced endoscopic system connects the bronchoscope's camera to the robotic unit, allowing medical staff to precisely position the robot by anchoring it to a multi-jointed stand.

Additionally, the system includes a flexible joint in the endoscopic forceps' gripper, controlled by a wire to adjust the joint's direction, facilitating easy navigation and extraction of foreign objects. It also features "drivable area estimation technology" developed by KIMM, which detects general obstacles and uneven road conditions like steep slopes and potholes, and automatically suggests alternative paths to avoid collisions. KIMM's "driving control technology" allows real-time vehicle control by selecting only the necessary functions from the available technologies.

Moreover, the system integrates eye position tracking that follows the medical staff's gaze, alongside a foot pedal that directly controls the device. This functionality enables the endoscope to bend, move straight, and rotate to effectively reach and remove blockages. The design significantly cuts down the number of medical personnel needed for such procedures. Unlike traditional endoscopic forceps that cannot move horizontally or vertically due to the lack of bending joints, and typically require an assistant because the medical staff’s hands are engaged in the procedure, this new technology allows for multidirectional adjustments of the endoscope and reduces the need for additional personnel, promising to improve the quality of medical services.

"We have adapted the technology from robotic laparoscopic surgeries for use in a smaller-diameter endoscopic forceps, breaking through the boundaries of existing surgical methods," said Principal Researcher Ki-Young Kim of KIMM.

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