Sunday, March 25, 2007

Life Support for Trauma And Transport (LSTAT)/Snake Robot

An increasing use of medical robotics is in the battlefield where medical robots are used to treat soldiers who are wounded in the frontline. One example of such robots is the Life Support for Trauma and Transport (LSTAT) /Snake Robot. The LSTAT is a portable surgical platform (stretcher) which integrates various state-of-the–art medical devices. LSTAT incorporates many functions of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) such as a defibrillator, providing oxygen supply, analyzing blood, suction and physiological monitoring. These high-tech stretchers are currently being used by the US Army in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To further enhance the capability of the LSTAT, Carnegie Mellon University is working with the US Army’s Medical Research Department to integrate a snake robot with the LSTAT. This snake robot is capable of diagnosing and treating wounded soldiers on the spot, hence minimizing battlefield casualties as most fatalities occur due to late treatment being given. The snake robot is basically a serpentine arm(s) (think Doc Oc in Spiderman) which is capable of performing various medical functions such as:

  • serving as a third hand for the medic
  • moving an ultrasound probe under the control of a remote physician
  • spraying antiseptics and antibiotics onto wounds
At present, Carnegie Mellon researchers have integrated built-in cameras onto the snake robot which allow for the inspection of a patient by remote physicians. The cameras which are mounted onto serpentine arms are preferred over the conventional method because it requires less sweep volume. Telemedicine (remote surgery) requires a dedicated connection bandwidth in order to minimize data lagging, which may affect the co-ordination between the doctor and the robot, hence affecting the patient. This has been resolved as LSTAT’s hardware capability is more than sufficient to handle the bandwidth issue.

How are military medical robots like in Singapore? Last checked, they are relatively underdeveloped compared to the US. The various collaborations made between DSO, the local universities and the Singapore Armed Forces rarely involve medical robots. The potential of the snake robot is tremendous as it is potentially able to perform many medical functions. The US Army has provided research grants to various universities for further development of the snake robot. Perhaps one day, it will be able to perform surgery right on the spot, with minimal assistance from a remote doctor or medic.


1. LSTAT/Snake robot video

2. LSTAT/Snake robot description

3. TATRC Cutting Edge Medical Technology

4. Study of LSTAT integration to Robotics

Blog entry posted by Ng Chin Ling U047690E


Industry said...

Quite an interesting robot. The robot can also be used to help victims of other calamities like fire or earthquake mishaps. Another interesting note to this robot is that the snake like structure could be used as a probe into hazardous environments. For instance to save surviving victims in a building crash due to fire or earthquake within 48hrs is crucial. In such cases rescue personnel's personal risk could hinder this. I believe the structure of this robot offers it more scope in various other similar applications.

Vignesh Viswanathan (U045971E)

Industry said...

The robots functionality can be further enhanced by attaching a human hand at the end of the snake robot. Though this would be more complicated to control but the applications are numerous. It can be programmed to do the common simple tasks like dressing a wound or applying a compress on a heavily bleeding wound. With enough advancement in this field it might be able to place an I.V catheter.
It also has scope in surgery where usually nurses are required to hold back flaps of tissue or a limb in a particular position. The snake robot can be used for these tasks. But this level of sophistication will take time.


Medical said...

Hi Vignesh and Pavan,
Thanks for leaving your comments. This is the first time someone has left a thread on my post. Haha..Yeah, in a way, there is room for improvement in the functionality of the snake arm. I believe that the mechanical aspect like the design of the arm needs to be improved for the robots to perform more complicated tasks. Lots of development and research are already taking place and it should become a reality soon, hopefully.

Ng Chin Ling (U047690E)