When a physician needs to visualize the interior of a patient’s airways for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes, the bronchoscope is the go-to device. However, they can only travel so far into the lungs before the airways become too narrow. A recent Medgadget article discussed a new device that can go the extra distance for deeper lung inspection. The new technology, developed by researchers at the University of Leeds in the UK, is a magnetic “tentacle robot” that can reach deeper into the lungs.
The robot is essentially a 2mm wide catheter made up of tiny elastomer segments that contain magnetic particles. With the use of external magnets, the tentacle conforms to the shape of the bronchial tree anatomy to explore most areas of the lung, which eliminates the need for patients to be X-rayed during inspection. By calculating the path of the scope prior to the procedure, the system becomes autonomous and doesn’t require medical staff to guide it. A video with more information can be seen here.