NASA and its Jet Propulsion Laboratory are working on developing an auxiliary endoscope, dubbed MARVEL (Multi-Angle and Rear Viewing Endoscopic tooL), an instrument that will function essentially as a dental mouth mirror designed for endosinus surgeries, as well as for skull base and neurosurgical procedures.
A conventional endoscope provides mostly a frontal view — that is, a view along its longitudinal axis and, hence, along a straight line extending from an opening through which it is inserted. The MARVEL could be inserted through the same opening as that of the conventional endoscope, but could be adjusted to provide a view from almost any desired angle. The MARVEL camera image would be displayed, on the same monitor as that of the conventional endoscopic image, as an inset within the conventional endoscopic image. For example, while viewing a tumor from the front in the conventional endoscopic image, the surgeon could simultaneously view the tumor from the side or the rear in the MARVEL image, and could thereby gain additional visual cues that would aid in precise three-dimensional positioning of surgical tools to excise the tumor. Indeed, a side or rear view through the MARVEL could be essential in a case in which the object of surgical interest was not visible from the front.
The conceptual design of the MARVEL exploits the surgeon’s familiarity with endoscopic surgical tools. The MARVEL would include a miniature electronic camera and miniature radio transmitter mounted on the tip of a surgical tool derived from an endo-scissor (see figure). The inclusion of the radio transmitter would eliminate the need for wires, which could interfere with manipulation of this and other surgical tools. The handgrip of the tool would be connected to a linkage similar to that of an endo-scissor, but the linkage would be configured to enable adjustment of the camera angle instead of actuation of a scissor blade.
It is envisioned that thicknesses of the tool shaft and the camera would be less than 4 mm, so that the camera-tipped tool could be swiftly inserted and withdrawn through a dime-size opening. Electronic cameras having dimensions of the order of millimeters are already commercially available, but their designs are not optimized for use in endoscopic brain surgery. The variety of potential endoscopic, thoracoscopic, and laparoscopic applications can be expected to increase as further development of electronic cameras yields further miniaturization and improvements in imaging performance.
To further understand how the device will function in clinical settings, go ahead and check out the white technical paper published in the latest NASA Technical Briefs: Adjustable-Viewing-Angle Endoscopic Tool for Skull Base and Brain Surgery… (registration required)