A Robotic Rectal Teaching Assistant

Keeping in mind the second most common cancer in men is prostatic adenocarcinoma, it should come as no surprise that men are not lining up to volunteer for medical training purposes, as the first step of a doctor’s diagnosis is inserting the index finger into the anus. Therefore, a group of scientists at Imperial College London developed a robotic rectum that helps train doctors and nurses to perform rectal examinations by accurately recreating the feel of a rectum, while providing computer feedback on their examination technique.

The Rectal Teaching Assistant (RTA) was presented at the Eurohaptics conference earlier this summer and is currently being adapted for gynecological exams, too. The prosthetic contains small robotic arms that apply pressure to the silicone rectum, to recreate the shape and feel of the back passage. At the same time the device is tracking the medical examiner’s finger position in real-time. A computer screen behind the device can display a 3D model of the rectum and prostate, allowing the doctor, with the aid of 3D glasses, to see the anatomy while they perform the examination.

Dr. Fernando Bello from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College London said, “Because the examinations occur in the body, the trainer cannot see what the trainee is doing, and vice versa.” Other prosthetic rectums are available, including one from the US with pressure sensors, named Patrick. However according to Bello, none of these give such a realistic feel to trainees. Due to the intimate nature of the examination, one could argue the robotic device teaches the medical students a crash course in “professional intimacy”.

Robotic rectums are just the latest implementation of emerging technologies, paving the way to recreate realistic sensations in other fields such as teledildonics. While it might seem creepy at first, it wouldn’t hurt to get to the bottom of it.

Source: Imperial College London

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