It's not the most pleasant experience, but patients placed under general anaesthesia who might not be able to easily breathe on their own are usually intubated, a procedure where a breathing tube is inserted down into their tracheas through their mouths. Usually a skilled doctor or nurse guides the tube in visually, but students at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have developed a robotic alternative that guides itself in, minimising mistakes.
Inserting a endotracheal tube can be tricky if the patient's airway is blocked with fluids or other complications, but the GuideIN Tube promises to make things easier -- no matter the conditions -- using a light-seeking flexible probe. An infrared light source is placed on the patient's throat near their trachea, and the GuideIN Tube uses it as sort of a 'light at the end of the tunnel' to guide its path. It still has to be pushed in manually, but the probe helps ensure the tube is always directed exactly where it needs to go.
Testing of the GuideIN on training mannequins and even cadavers has already been successful, and the researchers are hoping it could ever clinical trials as early as next year. Let's hope it passes; there's nothing worse than waking up from a surgery with even more problems than you had going in. [The Hebrew University of Jerusalem via Gizmag]