Gastroscopy without an endoscopy tube ... To make this vision come true, Sensodrive worked with Ovesco Endoscopy and researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute to develop a sensitive medical robot that allows a tiny camera capsule to be moved through the patient's stomach using magnetic force. Once the capsule has been swallowed by the patient, it transmits its images wirelessly as a livestream. The haptic feedback provided by Sensodrive's torque-controlled robotic arm enables the doctor to guide the magnet intuitively and steer the capsule safely through the patient's stomach. The BMBF-funded research project has now been successfully completed.
The initial situation – gastroscopy by endoscopy tube
Gastroscopy has so far been performed with the help of an endoscopy tube, which is inserted through the mouth and throat to the upper part of the stomach. Most patients find this very uncomfortable. In addition, due to the risks involved, staff with several years of training are required to carry out the procedure, which can sometimes lead to long waiting times for patient appointments.
The vision – tubeless examination by camera capsule
In order to develop completely tubeless technology and to make diagnostic gastroscopy easier and more comfortable for both patients and medical staff, the "nuEndo" research project was launched in 2020. Since then, Sensodrive has worked with Ovesco Endoscopy AG and the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration (IZM) to research and develop the tubeless camera capsule and the robot arm for sensitive remote control via magnet. The project was funded by Germany's Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
The implementation – powered by Sensodrive, Ovesco and IZM
During their two years of research, the three technology partners developed the nuEndo medical robot, which allows the swallowable endoscopy capsule, which includes a camera that streams a real-time image of the inside of the stomach onto a monitor, to be guided intuitively through the stomach. With a diameter of 11 millimetres and a length of approximately 26 millimetres, the capsule is not much bigger than a vitamin tablet and can be swallowed easily by the patient. Once in the stomach, the capsule is then coupled with the magnet integrated in the robot arm, which is positioned above the patient's body. It can then be moved and controlled via the magnetic coupling by the doctor moving the robot. Sensodrive's unique torque technology not only enables the doctor to control the capsule by moving the arm with complete precision, but also provides haptic feedback. For example, the doctor can "feel" when the camera capsule encounters resistance while they are moving the robot arm – and they can thus control it even more precisely and safely. Additional advantage of the Sensodrive technology: Since the weight of the robot arm is fully compensated, its operators can work without fatigue.
Forecast – wireless gastroscopy is getting closer
The two-year research project funded by the BMBF ended in August 2022. However, the results are so promising that all participating companies would like to continue the development of "nuEndo" and bring it to market maturity. Because then diagnostic gastroscopies could also be carried out in the future by general practitioners and without anaesthetic. And patients would no longer have to be afraid of the uncomfortable tube procedure.