Design and Evaluation of the SoftSCREEN Capsule for Colonoscopy

Vanni Consumi, Lukas Lindenroth, Jeref Merlin, Danail Stoyanov, Agostino Stilli

Colonoscopy is considered the golden standard for cancer screening of the lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract, with screening programs all over the world considering lowering the recommended screening age. Nonetheless, conventional colonoscopy can cause discomfort to patients due to the forces occurring between colonoscopes and the walls of the colon. Robotic solutions have been proposed to reduce discomfort, and improve accessibility and image quality. Aiming at addressing the limitations of traditional and robotic colonoscopy, in this paper, we present the SoftSCREEN System, a novel Soft Shapeshifting Capsule Robot for Endoscopy based on Eversion Navigation. A plurality of tracks surrounds the body of the system. These tracks are driven by a single motor paired with a worm gear and evert from the internal rigid chassis, enabling fullbody track-based navigation. Two inflatable toroidal chambers enclosing this rigid chassis and passing through the tracks, cause them to displace when inflated. This displacement can be used to regulate the contact with the surrounding wall, thus enabling traction control and adjustment of the overall system diameter to match the local lumen size. The design of the first tethered prototype at 2:1 scale of the SoftSCREEN system is presented in this work. The experimental results show efficient navigation capabilities for different lumen diameters and curvatures, paving the way for a novel robot capable of robust navigation and reliable control of the imaging, with potential for applications beyond colonoscopy, including gastroscopy and capsule endoscopy.

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