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Abstract
A broad variety of flexible surgical robots aiming to overcome the limitations of traditional rigid-instrument-based laparoscopic surgery are being proposed. These robots can take advantage of their flexible structure, and be introduced through natural orifices, navigate anatomical pathways, and perform localised interventions with an ever increasing accuracy and trauma reduction. The technologies behind these surgical robots span concentric tube based devices, tendon driven mechanics, hydraulically controlled actuators, miniaturised universal joints and many more. With the maturity of the surgical robotics field in the recent years, these technologies are coming closer to clinical translation, even though several hurdles must still be overcome. This workshop aims to bring wordwide researchers together in order to explore the common goals and limitations, and exploit the commonalities of the different systems. This full-day workshop will include researchers from academic, industrial, and clinical environments, in order to identify unifying research questions and approaches in the design, implementation, and evaluation of flexible access robots for surgical interventions.

Objectives

Existing minimally invasive surgical robots based on rigid links have improved surgical outcomes and reduced patient trauma by increasing surgical dexterity and providing depth-perception capabilities to the surgeon. As this technology matures, researchers are setting more demanding goals: further miniaturisation of surgical robotic platforms, reduction of trauma by minimising entry incisions to a single one, and further increase of dexterity to navigate and operate through tortuous natural pathways. These new procedures are referred to as flexible access endoluminal and transluminal interventions.

Flexible access robots are a technology promising to revolutionise both endoluminal and transluminal surgeries. Developed platforms comprise miniaturised mechatronic components to create arm-like assemblies with active shape control, and their flexibility allows insertion through natural orifices and operation inside anatomical lumen, e.g., the stomach or the abdomen. The field of flexible surgical robots is gaining great momentum, and several research groups and companies are demonstrating impressive achievements. Nonetheless, there are several important technical problems that still need to be addressed.

Optimal design of robots and accurate mechanics and dynamics modelling are the basis for operational accuracy. Moreover, the mechanical structures of the robots should exhibit varying and controlled flexibility, ideally being able to adjust between rigid and flexible configurations. Procedure planning and real-time control are additional challenges that need to be addressed, as are the force sensing, visualisation capabilities, and manufacturing limitations of ever smaller robots and miniaturised tools. Developing any of these robotics systems and medical devices for clinical use shares this common set of problems. Additionally, such interventional devices share common challenges with respect to clinical acceptance.

Despite these interconnections, however, it has been several years since a dedicated event. This workshop will bring researchers together to identify the unifying themes and solution strategies for this class of medical robots, to build new partnerships, and to spark new ideas for moving the field forward.


Topics
  • Snake-like robots;
  • Bimanual dextrous flexible robotic platforms;
  • Reconfigurable endoluminal robots;
  • Steerable catheters;
  • Concentric tube robots;
  • Steerable needles.

Intended Audience

The primary audience of the workshop consists of researchers and their students from academia, industry and clinical practice who are currently investigating flexible surgical robots. The secondary audience consists of those researchers who are interested in applying this class of robots to new medical applications, and those investigators with a broader interest in actuators and mechanisms for flexible robots.


Organisers
  • Dr. Christos Bergeles, Imperial College London
  • Prof. Pierre E. Dupont, Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School
  • Prof. Koji Ikuta, University of Tokyo, Japan
  • Dr. Su-Lin Lee, Imperial College London
  • Prof. Guang-Zhong Yang, Imperial College London