Research in surgical robotics has an established track record at Imperial College, and a number of research and commercial surgical robot platforms have been developed over the years. The Hamlyn Centre is a champion for technological innovation and clinical adoption of robotic, minimally invasive surgery. We work in partnership with major industrial leaders in medical devices and surgical robots, as well as developing our own platforms such as the i-Snake® and Micro-IGES platforms. The Da Vinci surgical robot is used extensively for endoscopic radical prostatectomy, hiatal hernia surgery, and low pelvic and rectal surgery, and in 2003, St Mary’s Hospital carried out its first Totally Endoscopic Robotic Coronary Artery Bypass (TECAB).

The major focus of the Hamlyn Centre is to develop robotic technologies that will transform conventional minimally invasive surgery, explore new ways of empowering robots with human intelligence, and develop[ing miniature 'microbots' with integrated sensing and imaging for targeted therapy and treatment. We work closely with both industrial and academic partners in open platforms such as the DVRK, RAVEN and KUKA. The Centre also has the important mission of driving down costs associated with robotic surgery in order to make the technology more accessible, portable, and affordable. This will allow it to be fully integrated with normal surgical workflows so as to benefit a much wider patient population.

The Hamlyn Centre currently chairs the UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems (UK-RAS) Network. The mission of the Network is to to provide academic leadership in Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS), expand collaboration with industry and integrate and coordinate activities across the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded RAS capital facilities and Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs).

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  • Conference paper
    Wisanuvej P, Giataganas PG, Leibrandt KL, Liu JL, Hughes MH, Yang GZYet al., 2017,

    Three-dimensional robotic-assisted endomicroscopy with a force adaptive robotic arm

    , IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), Publisher: IEEE

    Effective in situ, in vivo tumour margin assessment is an important, yet unmet, clinical demand in surgical oncology. Recent advances in probe-based optical imaging tools such as confocal endomicroscopy is making inroads in clinical applications. In practice, maintaining consistent tissue contact whilst ensuring large area surveillance is crucial for its practical adoption and for this reason there is a great demand for robotic assistance so that high-speed endomicroscopes can be combined with autonomous scanning, thus simplifying its incorporation in routine surgical workflows. In this paper, a cooperatively controlled robotic manipulator is developed, which provides a stable mechatronically-enhanced platform for micro-scanning tools to perform local high resolution mosaics over 3D undulating moving surfaces. Detailed kinematic and overall system performance analyses are provided and the results demonstrate the adaptability in terms of both contact force and orientation control of the system, and thus its simplicity in practical deployment and value for clinical adoption.

  • Journal article
    Zhang L, Ye M, Giataganas P, Hughes M, Yang GZet al., 2017,

    Autonomous scanning for endomicroscopic mosaicing and 3D fusion

    , Proceedings - IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Pages: 3587-3593, ISSN: 1050-4729

    Robot-assisted minimally invasive surgery can benefit from the automation of common, repetitive or well-defined but ergonomically difficult tasks. One such task is the scanning of a pick-up endomicroscopy probe over a complex, undulating tissue surface to enhance the effective field-of-view through video mosaicing. In this paper, the da Vinci® surgical robot, through the dVRK framework, is used for autonomous scanning and 2D mosaicing over a user-defined region of interest. To achieve the level of precision required for high quality mosaic generation, which relies on sufficient overlap between consecutive image frames, visual servoing is performed using a combination of a tracking marker attached to the probe and the endomicroscopy images themselves. The resulting sub-millimetre accuracy of the probe motion allows for the generation of large mosaics with minimal intervention from the surgeon. Images are streamed from the endomicroscope and overlaid live onto the surgeons view, while 2D mosaics are generated in real-time, and fused into a 3D stereo reconstruction of the surgical scene, thus providing intuitive visualisation and fusion of the multi-scale images. The system therefore offers significant potential to enhance surgical procedures, by providing the operator with cellular-scale information over a larger area than could typically be achieved by manual scanning.

  • Journal article
    Zhang L, Ye M, Giataganas P, Hughes M, Bradu A, Podoleanu A, Yang Get al., 2017,

    From macro to micro: autonomous multiscale image fusion for robotic surgery

    , IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine, Vol: 24, Pages: 63-72, ISSN: 1070-9932

    In recent years, minimally invasive robotic surgery has shown great promises for enhancing surgical precision and improving patient outcomes. Despite these advances, intraoperative tissue characterisation (such as the identification of cancerous tissue) still relies on traditional biopsy and histology, a process that is time-consuming and often disrupts the normal surgical workflow. In order to provide effective intra-operative decision-making, emerging optical biopsy techniques, such as probe based confocal laser endomicroscopy (pCLE) and optical coherence tomography (OCT), have been developed to provide real-time in vivo, in situ assessment of tissue micro-structures. Clinical deployment of these techniques, however, requires large area surveillance, from macro (mm/cm) to micro (µm) coverage in order to differentiate underlying tissue structures. This article provides a real-time multi-scale fusion scheme for robotic surgery. It demonstrates how the da Vinci surgical robot, used together with the da Vinci Research Kit, can be used for automated 2D scanning of pCLE/OCT probes, providing large area tissue surveillance by image stitching. Open-loop control of the robot provides insufficient precision for probe scanning, and therefore the motion is visually servoed using the live pCLE images (for lateral position) and OCT images (for axial position). The resulting tissue maps can then be fused in real-time with a stereo reconstruction from the laparoscopic video, providing the surgeon with a multi-scale 3D view of the operating site.

  • Journal article
    Vandini A, Bergeles C, Glocker B, Giataganas P, Yang GZet al., 2017,

    Unified tracking and shape estimation for concentric tube robots

    , IEEE Transactions on Robotics, Vol: 33, Pages: 901-915, ISSN: 1941-0468

    Tracking and shape estimation of flexible robots thatnavigate through the human anatomy are prerequisites to safeintracorporeal control. Despite extensive research in kinematicand dynamic modelling, inaccuracies and shape deformation ofthe robot due to unknown loads and collisions with the anatomymake shape sensing important for intra-operative navigation. Toaddress this issue, vision-based solutions have been explored. Thetask of2D tracking and3D shape reconstruction of flexible robotsas they reach deep-seated anatomical locations is challenging,since the image acquisition techniques usually suffer from lowsignal-to-noise ratio (SNR) or slow temporal responses. Moreover,tracking and shape estimation are thus far treated independentlydespite their coupled relationship. This paper aims to addresstracking and shape estimation in a unified framework basedon Markov Random Fields (MRF). By using concentric tuberobots as an example, the proposed algorithm fuses informationextracted from standard monoplane X-ray fluoroscopy with thekinematics model to achieve joint2D tracking and3D shapeestimation in realistic clinical scenarios. Detailed performanceanalyses of the results demonstrate the accuracy of the methodfor both tracking and shape reconstruction.

  • Journal article
    Wang W, Liu J, Xie G, Wen L, Zhang Jet al., 2017,

    A bio-inspired electrocommunication system for small underwater robots.

    , Bioinspir Biomim, Vol: 12, Pages: 036002-036002

    Weakly electric fishes (Gymnotid and Mormyrid) use an electric field to communicate efficiently (termed electrocommunication) in the turbid waters of confined spaces where other communication modalities fail. Inspired by this biological phenomenon, we design an artificial electrocommunication system for small underwater robots and explore the capabilities of such an underwater robotic communication system. An analytical model for electrocommunication is derived to predict the effect of the key parameters such as electrode distance and emitter current of the system on the communication performance. According to this model, a low-dissipation, and small-sized electrocommunication system is proposed and integrated into a small robotic fish. We characterize the communication performance of the robot in still water, flowing water, water with obstacles and natural water conditions. The results show that underwater robots are able to communicate electrically at a speed of around 1 k baud within about 3 m with a low power consumption (less than 1 W). In addition, we demonstrate that two leader-follower robots successfully achieve motion synchronization through electrocommunication in the three-dimensional underwater space, indicating that this bio-inspired electrocommunication system is a promising setup for the interaction of small underwater robots.

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