Gastone Ciuti 1 , 2 , * , Karolina Skonieczna-Żydecka 3 , Wojciech Marlicz 4 , 5 , Veronica Iacovacci 1 , 2 , Hongbin Liu 6 , Danail Stoyanov 7 , Alberto Arezzo 8 , Marcello Chiurazzi 1 , 2 , Ervin Toth 9 , Henrik Thorlacius 10 , Paolo Dario 1 , 2 , Anastasios Koulaouzidis 11
31 May 2020
Flexible colonoscopy remains the prime mean of screening for colorectal cancer (CRC) and the gold standard of all population-based screening pathways around the world. Almost 60% of CRC deaths could be prevented with screening. However, colonoscopy attendance rates are affected by discomfort, fear of pain and embarrassment or loss of control during the procedure. Moreover, the emergence and global thread of new communicable diseases might seriously affect the functioning of contemporary centres performing gastrointestinal endoscopy. Innovative solutions are needed: artificial intelligence (AI) and physical robotics will drastically contribute for the future of the healthcare services. The translation of robotic technologies from traditional surgery to minimally invasive endoscopic interventions is an emerging field, mainly challenged by the tough requirements for miniaturization. Pioneering approaches for robotic colonoscopy have been reported in the nineties, with the appearance of inchworm-like devices. Since then, robotic colonoscopes with assistive functionalities have become commercially available. Research prototypes promise enhanced accessibility and flexibility for future therapeutic interventions, even via autonomous or robotic-assisted agents, such as robotic capsules. Furthermore, the pairing of such endoscopic systems with AI-enabled image analysis and recognition methods promises enhanced diagnostic yield. By assembling a multidisciplinary team of engineers and endoscopists, the paper aims to provide a contemporary and highly-pictorial critical review for robotic colonoscopes, hence providing clinicians and researchers with a glimpse of the major changes and challenges that lie ahead.