Just last year, we showed you the concept i-Snake medical robot, and now a different team actually has a similar device for real: the CardioArm. This little robo-tentacle is being developed partly at Carnegie Mellon University, and is apparently the most flexible endoscope ever that follows its own camera-head in a snake-like way through your innards. Since it enters the body through a single incision, it's much less traumatic for the patient: minimally invasive surgery is clearly the way ahead.
Its snake/tentacle body is designed to perform cardiac surgery without damaging other tissue on the way in to its destination. Currently their smallest prototype is 30cm` long and just 1.2cm across, with 102 degrees of freedom and is joystick-steered by a surgeon. Successful cardiovascular operations have been carried out using CardioArm on cadavers and pigs, and more extensive human trials are upcoming.
It's a technology suited to many different surgeries, but not until it's a tad smaller: ultimately the team plan to miniaturise it to the point that it can get in via a vein. That's sending the biggest shivers down my spine, I can tell you. [TechnologyReview via MedGadget]