Automating flexible endoscopy using computer vision

Colonoscopy combines diagnostics of large bowel disease (particularly Colorectal Cancer, or CRC) with small interventions, such as removal of polyps, making it an essential tool in the fight against colorectal cancer. In colonoscopy, a long, flexible tube with a light source at the tip, fiber optic cables guiding light to the base and a CCD chip, is inserted via the anus through the colon. It is not an easy procedure: at least 200 procedures are required to reach the level to perform the procedure safely and within reasonable time. A new robotic device is being developed, which will possess an innovative and intuitive control system for flexible endoscopes (within the ScopeSupport project).

We think it is possible to implement semi-automated steering of (the camera head of) the flexible endoscope in this robotic device using the digital (video) images that are produced by the endoscope itself. The new technology facilitates endoscope introduction for less high-trained personnel, in order to make colorectal cancer screening cost-effective in the future. Additionally, other functionalities of flexible endoscopes are being investigated.

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Co-ordinator: N. van der Stap MSc