Barnes, N., Young, O., Colton, A. et al.
Toward a novel soft robotic system for minimally invasive interventions.
Int J CARS (2023). (Abstract, Links)


During minimally invasive surgery, surgeons maneuver tools through complex anatomies, which is difficult without the ability to control the position of the tools inside the body. A potential solution for a substantial portion of these procedures
is the efficient design and control of a pneumatically actuated soft robot system.
We designed and evaluated a system to control a steerable catheter tip. A macroscale 3D printed catheter tip was designed to have two separately pressurized channels to induce bending in two directions. A motorized hand controller was developed to allow users to control the bending angle while manually inserting the steerable tip. Preliminary characterization of two catheter tip prototypes was performed and used to map desired angle inputs into pressure commands. The integrated robotic system allowed both a novice and a skilled surgeon to position the steerable catheter tip at the location of cylindrical targets with sub-millimeter accuracy. The novice was able to reach each target within ten seconds and the skilled surgeon within five seconds on average. This soft robotic system enables its user to simultaneously insert and bend the pneumatically actuated catheter tip with high accuracy and in a short amount of time. These results show promise concerning the development of a soft robotic system that can improve outcomes in minimally invasive interventions.