In vivo microrobots for natural orifice transluminal surgery. Current status and future perspectives

Surg Oncol. 2009 Jun;18(2):121-9. doi: 10.1016/j.suronc.2008.12.006. Epub 2009 Jan 14.


The possibility to operate inside the peritoneal cavity through small holes performed in hollow organs that is presented by Natural Orifice Transluminal Endoscopic Surgery (NOTES) represents a major paradigm shift in general surgery. While this new approach seems very appealing from patients' perspectives because it eliminates completely abdominal wall aggression and promises to reduce postoperative pain, it is very challenging for surgeons because of the major constraints imposed by both the mode of access and the limited technology currently available. For this reason NOTES applications at the present time are performed by only a few surgeons and mainly to perform non-complex procedures. While new devices are under development, many of them are trying mainly to simply improve current endoscopic platforms and seem not to offer breakthrough solutions. The numerous challenges introduced by natural orifice approaches require a radical shift in the conception of new technologies in order to make this emerging operative access safe and reproducible. The convergence of several enabling technologies in the field of miniaturization, communication and micro-mechatronics brings the possibility to realize on a large scale the revolutionary concept of miniature in vivo co-operative robots. These robots provide vision and task assistance without the constraints of the entry incision and have been shown in experimental settings to possess many qualities that could be ideal to partner with Natural Orifice Surgery. This article explores the current status of microrobotics as well as presents potential future scenarios of their applications in NOTES.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Endoscopes, Gastrointestinal* / economics
  • Endoscopy, Gastrointestinal / methods*
  • Equipment Design
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / surgery
  • Humans
  • Peritoneal Cavity / surgery*
  • Robotics / economics
  • Robotics / instrumentation*
  • Robotics / methods
  • Video-Assisted Surgery / instrumentation
  • Video-Assisted Surgery / methods