Soft Catheter Surgical Robot for Heart Disease (20150147, Dr. Tim Kowalewski)

Technology No. 20150147
IP Status: Issued US Patent; Application #: 15/569,958

Surgical robot for treating cardiovascular disease (CVD)

A new type of soft surgical robot capable of safely travelling through vasculature offers surgical robotic benefits in treating cardiovascular disease (CVD). The worm-like design is based on fiber-reinforced elastomeric enclosures (FREE). It features hydraulically powered actuators with pressure-threshold valves, offering integrated sensing and precision control at the end-effector. The robot can anchor itself within vasculature using minimal force and will not block blood flow. Combining FREE actuators enables bidirectional traversal, steering and anchoring for interventional procedures by the catheter tip (e.g. atherectomy). The technology can be combined with other tools such as closed-loop laser photoablation and fiber optic tissue sensing to realize safe, closed-loop precision tissue removal in transvascular conditions with semi or fully automated control.

Safely removes plaque

Heart disease remains a leading cause of death, yet no safe, minimally-invasive and lasting clinical intervention currently exists to treat it. Stent usage is declining and proving clinically inferior to invasive bypass surgery. This new, unprecedented design provides an inherently safe method of removing plaque while extending the benefits of surgical robotics into the cardiovascular and transvascular space.

Phase of Development

  • Prototype


  • Safely travels through vasculature
  • New class of minimally-invasive surgical robots


  • Soft catheter surgical robot
  • Controlled biomimetic movement through vasculature
  • Safe, precision removal of plaque
  • Design based on fiber-reinforced elastomeric enclosures (FREE)
  • Hydraulically powered actuators with pressure-threshold valves
  • Integrated sensing
  • Bidirectional traversal, steering and anchoring for interventional procedures (e.g. atherectomy)
  • Safe, closed-loop precision tissue removal with semi or fully automated control


  • Cardiovascular disease (CVD)
  • Plaque removal
  • Atherosclerosis treatment
  • Stroke treatment
  • Peripheral artery disease treatment
  • Transvascular access procedures
  • Catheter-based intravascular applications
  • Surgical robotics

Tim Kowalewski, PhD
Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering
External Link (
James Van de Ven
Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering
External Link (

Serially Actuated Locomotion for Soft Robots in Tube-Like Environments
IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, Volume: 2, Issue: 2, April 2017

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