Soft Colonoscopy Robotic Platform


Each year, colon cancer claims the lives of more than 600,000 people worldwide, and is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death in the world.  Like other cancers, colon cancer progresses to malignancy in approximately 5 – 10 years; however, it possess the unique quality that if the tumor is detected at an early enough stage the prognosis for survival is 90%.  For this reason, it is recommended that people over 50 years of age or people who have a family history of colon cancer undergo routine screenings for colon cancer every five years.

Our Research

The focus of our research platform (shown in the image below) is two-fold: to increase patient compliance with these lifesaving recommendations by first decreasing the pain associated with the procedure, and expand the capabilities of traditional colonoscopy by introducing automated computer assistance.  Navigating the endoscope is achieved by magnetic coupling, which allows for pulling the capsule endoscope from the front, rather than pushing the traditional colonoscope tube from the back, which can lead to painful stretching of the colon.  The image below shows the components of the system. This platform is an evolution of the Magnetic Air Capsule (MAC) system, originally developed when Dr. Valdastri was at Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna.

The platform is composed by two main subsystems:

  • The Endoscopic Device is a soft-tethered capsule equipped with all the functionalities of a traditional endoscope, including: an endoscopic camera, white light LEDs, a therapeutic tool channel, and air/water channels for insufflation and cleaning.  In addition, it contains a magnet for non-rigid coupling with the external magnet so that it can be moved from the colon.  The comparatively smaller size of the capsule and the tether additionally increase patient comfort during the procedure.
  • The Robot Unit and Control Box enable capsule manipulation; thanks to the robotically actuated external magnet, teleoperation and computer-aided operation reduce the physical demands of performing the procedure, expand the pool of medical personnel able to operate the system, and decouple the procedure from the location of the physician (i.e. a physician in the United States could perform a diagnostic procedure on military personnel overseas).  The control box also features a number of input interfaces including a Phantom Omni haptic interface, which allows force feedback; touch screen devices; the Kinect; and common interface devices (mouse, keyboard) for comparison.
  • These two major system components together with a method for localization combine to form a teleoperable real-time closed-loop robotic platform for colonoscopy.


    Relevant Publications

    A. Arezzo, A. Menciassi, P. Valdastri, G. Ciuti, G. Lucarini, M. Salerno, C. Di Natali, M. Verra, P. Dario, M. Morino, “Experimental assessment of a novel robotically-driven endoscopic capsule compared to traditional colonoscopy”, Digestive and Liver Disease, 2013, Vol. 45, N. 8, pp 657–662. [ PDF]

    C. Di Natali, M. Beccani, P. Valdastri, “Real-Time Pose Detection for Magnetic Medical Devices”, IEEE Transactions on Magnetics, 2013, Vol. 49, N. 7, pp. 3524-3527. [PDF]

    K. Obstein, P. Valdastri, “Advanced Endoscopic Technologies for Colorectal Cancer Screening”, World Journal of Gastroenterology, 2013, Vol. 19, N. 4, pp. 431-439. [ PDF ]

    P. Valdastri, G. Ciuti, A. Verbeni, A. Menciassi, P. Dario, A. Arezzo, M. Morino, “Magnetic air capsule robotic system: Proof of concept of a novel approach for painless colonoscopy”, Surgical Endoscopy, 2012, Vol. 26, N. 5, pp. 1238-1246. [ PDF ] [ AWARD ]

    G. Ciuti, M. Salerno, G. Lucarini, P. Valdastri, A. Arezzo, A. Menciassi, M. Morino, P. Dario, “A Comparative Evaluation of Control Interfaces for a Robotic-Aided Endoscopic Capsule Platform”, IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 2012, Vol. 28, N. 2, pp. 534-538. [ PDF ]

    G. Ciuti, P. Valdastri, A. Menciassi, P. Dario, “Robotic magnetic steering and locomotion of capsule endoscope for diagnostic and surgical endoluminal procedures”, Robotica, 2010, Vol. 28, No. 2, pp.199-207. [ PDF ]

    G. Ciuti, R. Donlin, P. Valdastri, A. Arezzo, A. Menciassi, M. Morino, P. Dario, “Robotic versus manual control in magnetic steering of an endoscopic capsule”, Endoscopy, 2010, Vol. 42, pp. 148-152. [ PDF ]