Current state of micro-robots/devices as substitutes for screening colonoscopy: assessment based on technology readiness levels

Silvia C. Tapia-Siles (Lead / Corresponding author), Stuart Coleman, Alfred Cuschieri (Lead / Corresponding author)

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Previous reports have described several candidates, which have the potential to replace colonoscopy, but to date, there is still no device capable of fully replacing flexible colonoscopy in the management of colonic disorders and for mass adult population screening for asymptomatic colorectal cancer.Materials and methods: NASA developed the TRL methodology to describe and define the stages of development before use and marketing of any device. The definitions of the TRLS used in the present review are those formulated by “The US Department of Defense Technology Readiness Assessment Guidance” but adapted to micro-robots for colonoscopy. All the devices included are reported in scientific literature. They were identified by a systematic search in Web of Science, PubMed and IEEE Xplore amongst other sources. Devices that clearly lack the potential for full replacement of flexible colonoscopy were excluded. Assessment of the current situation: The technological salient features of all the devices included for assessment are described briefly, with particular focus on device propulsion. The devices are classified according to the TRL criteria based on the reported information. An analysis is next undertaken of the characteristics and salient features of the devices included in the review: wireless/tethered devices, data storage–transmission and navigation, additional functionality, residual technology challenges and clinical and socio-economical needs. Conclusions: Few devices currently possess the required functionality and performance to replace the conventional colonoscopy. The requirements, including functionalities which favour the development of a micro-robot platform to replace colonoscopy, are highlighted.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)404-413
    Number of pages10
    JournalSurgical Endoscopy
    Issue number2
    Early online date20 Jun 2015
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016


    • Colonic locomotion
    • Colonoscopy
    • Medical robotics
    • Micro-robot
    • Technology readiness level


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