Snakes in hearts: The snakelike CardioArm moves around inside the membrane encasing a pig’s heart.
“For minimally invasive surgery, you either have a linear laparoscope that’s rigid or a flexible endoscope that buckles easily; there’s nothing that’s both flexible and rigid,” says Choset. But the CardioArm “has the benefits of both,” he says.
“I think what Howie has is a good platform for getting at the [surgical] site,” says Nabil Simaan, an assistant professor at Columbia University who is working on insertable, snakelike probes for the abdomen.
The team hopes to start testing the CardioArm in natural-orifice surgery–a technique where tissues are removed through existing openings in the body, such as the mouth, to avoid postoperative pain and reduce recovery time. Zenati aims to have surgeons use CardioArms in unison, like “an octopus, with two or three tentacles” all entering through one incision and then branching out.