This study investigated the use of direct visualization to enhance minimally invasive epicardial procedures. A commercially available miniature camera was placed in a prototype subxiphoid introducer needle and bench top, in vitro and in vivo tests of system performance were made during simulated and actual attempts at pericardial access and cardio-endoscopy. This system had an unshielded field of view of 100° and a resolution of 220 × 224 pixels. When a sleeve used to maintain depth of field was slid past the distal tip of the camera probe, the field of view would decrease by ≈15° per millimetre of sleeve extension, but without loss of image quality. While tests during in vivo subxiphoid access in a porcine model revealed that the pericardial membrane was difficult to localize, the results also showed excellent resolution of the coronary arteries on the epicardial surface. These findings and potential improvements are discussed in detail.
Keywords: Endoscopy; epicardial access; in vivo models; pericardium; subxiphoid approach.