An intelligent robotic arm can now perform colonoscopies faster and with less pain than before, offering the potential to revolutionize the process of cancer diagnosis while saving millions of lives.
Being the gold standard for colon cancer detection and diagnosis, the colonoscopy is one of the most demanded procedures in medicine, a demand which is expected to rise for 16% over the next decade.
However, along with being seriously uncomfortable and perhaps even humiliating to some people, the traditional endoscopes used in the procedure have changed little since the 1960s. They are complicated to work with, too expensive to use in a disposable manner and thus require cleaning, and a practitioner might need years before he or she has mastered their use.
Relying on simple movement commands from the user, the robotic arm uses machine intelligence and image analysis to automatically guide itself inside the body.
The authors of a paper published in Nature Machine Learning tested this approach in an artificial colon model as well as in two pigs.
The users performing the procedures found this new system to be much more manageable than using a traditional endoscope, or a magnet-guided one–another method that was recently developed but which also has drawbacks.