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Background: Colonoscopy is a widely used and effective procedure, but it often causes patient discomfort and its execution requires considerable skill and training. We demonstrate an alternative approach to colonoscope propulsion with the potential to minimise patient discomfort by reducing the forces exerted on the colonic wall and mesentery, and to reduce the level of skill required for execution.
Methods: A prototype colonoscopic device is described, consisting of a tethered capsule that is propelled and manoeuvred through a water-filled colon (hydro-colonoscopy) by an array of water jets. As an initial proof of concept, experiments were performed to assess the ability of the device to navigate through a simplified PVA cryogel human colon phantom arranged in various anatomical configurations.
Results: The prototype was capable of successfully navigating through three out of four colon configurations: a simple layout, alpha loop and reverse alpha loop. It was unable to negotiate the fourth configuration involving an "N loop", but this was attributed to problems with the colon phantom. In the successful test replicates, mean complete insertion (i.e. caecal intubation) time was 4.7 min. Measured pressures, temperatures and forces exerted on the colon appeared to be within a physiologically acceptable range. The results demonstrate the viability of propelling a colonoscope through a colon phantom using hydro-jets.
Conclusions: Results indicate that this approach has the potential to enable rapid and safe caecal intubation. This suggests that further development towards clinical translation is worthwhile.