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Innovations (Phila). 2006 Fall;1(5):227-31. doi: 10.1097/01.IMI.0000240673.14388.fc.

Percutaneous subxiphoid access to the epicardium using a miniature crawling robotic device.

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From the *Division of Cardiac Surgery, Heart, Lung and Esophageal Surgery Institute, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; †The Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.



: To expand minimally invasive beating-heart surgery, we have developed a miniature 2-footed crawling robot (HeartLander) that navigates on the epicardium. This paradigm obviates mechanical stabilization and lung deflation, and avoids the access limitations of current approaches. We tested the locomotion of the device on a beating porcine heart accessed through a closed-chest subxiphoid approach.


: HeartLander consists of 2 modules that are connected by an extensible midsection. It adheres to the epicardium using suction pads. Locomotion and turning are accomplished by moving the 2 modules in an alternating fashion using wires that run through the midsection between them. After a preliminary test with a plastic beating-heart model, we performed a porcine study in vivo. The device was inserted into the pericardial space through a subxiphoid incision, while the test was observed using a left thoracoscopy. The blood pressure and electrocardiogram were monitored, and vacuum pressure and driving forces on the wires were recorded.


: HeartLander traveled across the anterior and lateral surfaces of the beating heart without restriction, including locomotion forward, backward, and turning. The vacuum pressure was kept below 450 mm Hg at all times. The average maximum force during elongation was 1.86 ± 0.97 N, and during retraction was 1.24 ± 0.33 N. No adverse hemodynamic or electrophysiologic events were noted during the trial. No epicardial damage was found on the excised heart after the porcine trial.


: The current HeartLander prototype demonstrated safe and successful locomotion on a beating porcine heart through a closed-chest subxiphoid approach.

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