In the field of endoscopic solo surgery, the assistance received by the surgeon from ergonomical positioning devices is extremely important. They aid in both the retracting of instruments and the positioning of the endoscope. However, passive systems derived from open surgery have not proved satisfactory. Therefore, we set out to develop a remote-controlled arm capable of moving a rigid endoscope with about four degrees of freedom, while maintaining an invariant point of constraint motion coincident with the trocar puncture site through the abdominal wall. The system is driven by means of speaker-independent voice control or a finger-ring joystick clipped onto the instrument shaft close to the handle. When the joystick is used, the motion of the endoscope is controlled by the fingertip of the operating surgeon, which is inserted into the small ring of the controller in such a way as to make the motion of the fingertip correspond directly to the motion of the tip of the endoscope. A study was performed to compare the two different interfaces available for the system. With both interfaces, the guiding system allows for transparent and intuitive operation. Its set-up is easy; it is safe and reliable to use during the intervention; and it is faster than human assistance. With its improved ergonomy, this new generation of remote-controlled endoscope positioning system represents a further step toward the diffusion of solo surgery techniques in minimally invasive therapy. In our opinion, this prototype creates a valid compromise between human and robotic control of rigid endoscopes.
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