Methods and Robots for Trans-Nasal Micro-Surgery of the Upper Airwaves


Vanderbilt’s ARMA laboratory has developed a robot and algorithms for surgery of the upper airways by using a trans-nasal access path. This robotic device enables office-based minimally invasive procedures in the throat and sinuses without requiring full anesthesia or a hospital stay.

Challenges for Minimally Invasive Procedures in the Upper Airways

• MIS of the throat requires use of full anesthesia and a laryngoscope (a tubular access channel that provides a clear access path to the throat for tools and visualization).

• There are many associated complications to the use of full anesthesia and the use of laryngoscopes to secure trans-oral access into the airways

• Many procedures require feedback, whether it be visual, tactile, or otherwise, which is inhibited in current minimally invasive techniques

• For treatment of vocal fold paralysis, vocal fold injection site targeting is done using a trans-dermal injection while looking on the internal anatomy using an independant microscope, making injection targeting imprecise and challenging in a minimally invasive setting

Technology Description

This robotic system is designed to be able to operate in the upper airways via the natural orifices of the nose. Because it operates through natural openings, no external incisions are necessary and very little to no anesthesia is needed for the procedure. The system consists of a passively flexible segment coupled with an actively compliant multi-segment arm. This arm also provides a multi-lumen access channel for delivery of suction or different types of therapies to the surgical site. The robot also allows for deployment of visualization fiberscopes, laser, and a working gripper such as a biopsy cup/gripper. The actuation unit that drives the robot also has force-sensing capabilities, providing the user with valuable feedback during a procedure and greatly reducing the potential for damaging healthy tissue during the procedure.

Unique Features and Competitive Advantages

• The force-sensing capabilities of this robot provide the user with valuable feedback that has so far been absent from minimally invasive procedures of the throat

• The ability of this system to navigate trans-nasal access channels allows it to be implemented with very localized anesthesia, greatly reducing recovery time and allowing for real-time feedback from the patient during a procedure

• The minimally invasive nature of this system allows for many treatments and diagnoses made in the upper airways and sinuses to be made in a doctor’s office, reducing the need for patients to spend time in a hospital during these procedures

Intellectual Property Status

A PCT Application has been filed

Inventor Bio and Publications Vanderbilt University A.R.M.A. Lab:

Nabil SimaanAndrea BajoJames NettervilleRoger Goldman
Licensing manager: 
Ashok Choudhury

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