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
    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.

  • Journal article
    Leibrandt K, Wisanuvej P, Gras G, Shang J, Seneci CA, Giataganas P, Vitiello V, Darzi A, Yang G-Zet al., 2017,

    Effective Manipulation in Confined Spaces of Highly Articulated Robotic Instruments for Single Access Surgery

    , IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, Vol: 2, Pages: 1704-1711, ISSN: 2377-3766

    The field of robotic surgery increasingly advances towards highly articulated and continuum robots, requiring new kinematic strategies to enable users to perform dexterous manipulation in confined workspaces. This development is driven by surgical interventions accessing the surgical workspace through natural orifices such as the mouth or the anus. Due to the long and narrow nature of these access pathways, external triangulation at the fulcrum point is very limited or absent, which makes introducing multiple degrees of freedom at the distal end of the instrument necessary. Additionally, high force and miniaturization requirements make the control of such instruments particularly challenging. This letter presents the kinematic considerations needed to effectively manipulate these novel instruments and allow us their dexterous control in confined spaces. A nonlinear calibration model is further used to map joint to actuator space and improve significantly the precision of the instrument's motion. The effectiveness of the presented approach is quantified with bench tests, and the usability of the system is assessed by three user studies simulating the requirements of a realistic surgical task.

  • Journal article
    Shang J, Leibrandt K, Giataganas P, Vitiello V, Seneci CA, Wisanuvej P, Liu J, Gras G, Clark J, Darzi A, Yang G-Zet al., 2017,

    A Single-Port Robotic System for Transanal Microsurgery—Design and Validation

    , IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, Vol: 2, Pages: 1510-1517, ISSN: 2377-3766

    This letter introduces a single-port robotic platform for transanal endoscopic microsurgery (TEMS). Two robotically controlled articulated surgical instruments are inserted via a transanal approach to perform submucosal or full-thickness dissection. This system is intended to replace the conventional TEMS approach that uses manual laparoscopic instruments. The new system is based on master-slave robotically controlled tele-manipulation. The slave robot comprises a support arm that is mounted on the operating table, supporting a surgical port and a robotic platform that drives the surgical instruments. The master console includes a pair of haptic devices, as well as a three-dimensional display showing the live video stream of a stereo endoscope inserted through the surgical port. The surgical instrumentation consists of energy delivery devices, graspers, and needle drivers allowing a full TEMS procedure to be performed. Results from benchtop tests, ex vivo animal tissue evaluation, and in vivo studies demonstrate the clinical advantage of the proposed system.

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