The HeartLander is a novel epicardial crawling robot, designed to deliver diagnostic and therapeutic myocardial injections, as well as pacing leads. According to the New Scientist, the device has already been tested in live pigs and has successfully fitted (presumably epicardial) pacemaker leads, and has injected dye into the porcine hearts. The HeartLander was created at the Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute.
From the project page:
The HeartLander is a miniature mobile robot to facilitate minimally invasive beating-heart intrapericardial therapies. The robot:
enters the chest through an incision below the sternum, adheres to the epicardial surface of the heart, navigates to any location on the epicardium, and administers the therapy under control of the physician.
As compared to current minimally invasive cardiac robotics, this concept obviates cardiac stabilization, lung deflation, and access limitations. These advantages will result in greater efficiency and reduced trauma, as well as opening the possibility for ambulatory outpatient cardiac surgery. The current HeartLander prototype uses suction to maintain prehension of the epicardial surface, and wire-actuation from offboard motors for locomotion. Magnetic tracking and fluoroscopy provide feedback to the physician, who controls the device through a joystick interface. A working channel provides access for various therapeutic tools. This prototype has demonstrated successful prehension and locomotion on all surfaces of a beating pig heart through a 20-mm percutaneous incision. Additionally, epicardial lead placement and myocardial dye injection have been accomplished.