Over the past decade, natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery (NOTES) has developed out of a merger of endoscopy and surgery . NOTES offers the advantages of avoiding external incisions and scars, reducing pain, and shortening recovery time by using natural body orifices as the primary portal of entry for surgeries . The NOTES platform consists of a flexible, hollow body — enabling travel in the interior of the human body — and the distal end (head), the mechanical structure of which is based off of the snake bone. After the distal end passes through a natural orifice, through a transluminal opening of the stomach, vagina, bladder, or colon, and reaches the target working place in the peritoneal cavity, several therapeutic and imaging tools can be passed through the hollow conduit of the NOTES’ body for surgeries .
The traditional snake bone design presents two major problems. First, the movement is constrained to two bending degrees-of-freedom (DOF). A need to reorient the tool then often requires the entire body to be rotated by the physician, an unwieldly manipulation that both hinders convenience and results in imprecise control. Second, the traditional fabrication process is tedious and therefore lends to higher manufacturing costs; the bending joints must be first individually machined then assembled together piece-by-piece using rotation pins.
We propose a novel design for the snake bone that introduces an additional DOF via rotation and is simple and cost-effective to machine. The revised snake bone design features rotation segments controlled by wires that a physician can readily manipulate for increased control and convenience. Further, because surgical tools that pass through the NOTES body conduit are also installed on snake bone structures, the introduction of rotation to the snake bone design increases each tool’s mobility and manipulation. This advance therefore presents the potential to decrease both the number of required tools and the overall diameter of the NOTES body. Finally, the body is machined as a single element and therefore minimizes the work of assembly.