Newly FDA-approved robotic snake scope gobbles tumors

Published: Jul. 6, 2018 at 3:59 PM EDT
Email this link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

A first-of-its-kind robotic scope is now making it easier for surgeons to remove hard-to-reach tumors in the rectum.

Patients with colon tumors, or colorectal cancer, may sometimes face a difficult treatment, depending upon the location and size of the lesion.

Now, a newly FDA-approved flex robotic scope is helping colorectal surgeons see and remove tumors in a minimally invasive way.

“I love the outdoors," Kelly Benson said. "I love to be constantly involved in something.”

Kelly, 50, was healthy and active her entire life – until six months ago. That’s when she would suddenly double over.

“It would literally just suck the air right out of your body," she said. "The pain was that intense.”

Doctors found a tumor larger than a golf ball inside Kelly’s colon.

“It was a benign lesion, but it was big enough that it could not be removed via an endoscopic approach,” Dr. Javier Salgado said.

Instead, Salgado was among the first surgeons in the country to use a newly FDA-approved flexible device: a robotic attachment that moves like a snake.

Although it’s new, Kelly had no reservations. She’s a machine shop plant manager and is comfortable with high-tech options.

“Automation and robotics is something I’m very familiar with,” Kelly said.

The robotic attachment allows surgeons to have better access through the rectum and colon.

“We dock it, which means it remains still and then deploy our instruments, which have very good articulation so we can excise the lesions,” Salgado said.

With this, surgeons can avoid open abdominal surgery, sparing patients weeks of recovery. Kelly was up and moving the day after the procedure and back to work and travel right away.

“I’m right back to my normal, outgoing, lively self,” she said.

Although Kelly’s tumor was benign, surgeons can use the robot for the removal of cancerous lesions.

Salgado says patients with advanced rectal cancer are not good candidates for this surgery right now, but it may be an option in the future.




REPORT: MB #4438

BACKGROUND: The colon is part of the gastrointestinal tract that is also called the large intestine. One of the most common colon problems in people over 50 years of age are colorectal polyps, growths in the colon and rectum that can become cancerous. Benign tumors are non-cancerous while malignant tumors are cancerous and result from abnormal cell growth. Benign tumors of the colon and rectum are usually discovered because a patient is examined for symptoms such as rectal bleeding, changes in bowel habits (frequency of bowel movements, constipation, incontinence, urgency for bowel movements), or abdominal pain, or as a finding at a screening endoscopy. Treatment for benign tumors of the colon and rectum is usually localized surgery to remove the tumor.

(Source: &

TREATMENT: Colonoscopy, whether performed for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes, is a minimally invasive, relatively painless procedure. It involves inserting a flexible scope into the patient’s large intestines. This instrument, called a colonoscope, is specially designed to evaluate the entire large intestin. It is also designed so that other procedures can be performed while it is in the colon. These include biopsies and lesion removal. The colonoscope works by taking a video of the colon and transmitting it to a computer screen. If a polyp or lesion is found, the doctor will determine if it is possible to remove it during the same procedure. The patient is placed under intravenous sedation throughout the whole procedure.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: Javier Salgado, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery and Colorectal Surgeon at UPMC talks about a new robotic device that helps with visualization of tumors, expediting the patient’s recovery and minimizing the possibility of pain. Dr. Salgado says, “It adds a bit better visualization of the lesions and that allows us to resect these tumors when they’re a bit higher up via our transanal approach.” The procedure also minimizes post-operative pain, it improves patient’s recovery, and it decreases the length of stay in the hospital. The flex robotic system was approved for ENT use in 2015, and just FDA approved for colorectal surgery earlier this year.

(Source: Javier Salgado, MD)

Latest News

Latest News