Feasibility of transanal total mesorectal excision (taTME) using the Medrobotics Flex® System

Heather Carmichael, Anthony P. D’Andrea, Matthew Skancke, Vincent Obias, Patricia Sylla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The use of transanal total mesorectal excision (taTME) for treatment of rectal cancer is growing, but anatomic constraints prevent access to the proximal rectum with rigid instruments. The articulated instrumentation of current surgical robots is promising in overcoming these limitations, but the bulky size of current platforms inhibits the proximal reach of dissection. Flexible robotic systems could overcome these constraints while maintaining a stable platform for dissection. The goal of this study was to evaluate feasibility of performing taTME using the semi-robotic Flex® System (Medrobotics Corp., Raynham, MA) in human cadavers. Methods: taTME was performed by two surgeons in six fresh human cadaveric specimens using the Flex® System, with or without transabdominal laparoscopic assistance. Both mid- and low-rectal lesions were simulated. Metrics including quality of visualization, maintenance of pneumorectum, maneuverability of instruments, effectiveness of pursestring suture placement, and dissection in an anatomically correct plane were evaluated. Results: The semi-robotic endoluminal platform allowed for excellent visualization, insufflation, and dissection during taTME. Adequate pursestring occlusion of the rectum was achieved in all six cases. In cadavers with simulated mid-rectal lesions (N = 4), dissection and anterior peritoneal entry was achieved in all cases, with abdominal assistance utilized in two of four cases. In cadavers with simulated low-rectal lesions (N = 2), dissection was incomplete and aborted due to difficulty maneuvering instruments in close proximity to the rigid transanal port. Conclusions: Use of the Flex® system for taTME is feasible for mid-rectal dissection. Advantages over the traditional multi-armed robot include longer reach of instruments with the ability to dissect up to 17 cm from the anal verge, as well as tactile feedback. The current design of the flexible platform does not permit safe dissection in the distal rectum, although this constraint may be resolved with future adjustments to the equipment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)485-491
Number of pages7
JournalSurgical Endoscopy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery (NOTES)
  • Proctectomy
  • Rectal cancer
  • Robotic surgery
  • Robotic transanal total mesorectal excision
  • Transanal total mesorectal excision (taTME)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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