Just last year, we showed you the concept i-Snake medical robot, and now a different team actually has a similar device for real: the CardioArm. This little robo-tentacle is being developed partly at Carnegie Mellon University, and is apparently the most flexible endoscope ever that follows its own camera-head in a snake-like way through your innards. Since it enters the body through a single incision, it's much less traumatic for the patient: minimally invasive surgery is clearly the way ahead.
Its snake/tentacle body is designed to perform cardiac surgery without damaging other tissue on the way in to its destination. Currently their smallest prototype is 12 inches long and just 0.47 across, with 102 degrees of freedom and is joystick-steered by a surgeon. Successful cardiovascular operations have been carried out using CardioArm on cadavers and pigs, and more extensive human trials are upcoming.
It's a technology suited to many different surgeries, but not until it's a tad smaller: ultimately the team plan to miniaturize it to the point that it can get in via a vein. That's sending the biggest shivers down my spine, I can tell you. [TechnologyReview via MedGadget]