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IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000225802D
Publication Date: 2013-Mar-06

Publishing Venue

The IP.com Prior Art Database


Embodiments of the present disclosure may be directed to an elongated shaft. The elongate shaft may have a variable stiffness. The elongated shaft may further include a tubular body having a distal end, a proximal end, an outer wall, and a central lumen. The outer wall of the tubular body may comprises a plurality of slots therethrough. The plurality of slots may be arranged to provide variable stiffness along a longitudinal axis of the tubular body.

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Field of the Invention

[001]         The present invention relates to medical devices in general and to variable stiffness endoscope shafts and articulation joints in particular.

Background of the Invention

[002]         It has become well established that there are major health benefits from regular endoscopic examinations of a patient's internal structures such as the alimentary canals and airways, e.g., the esophagus, stomach, lungs, colon, uterus, urethra, kidney, and other organ systems.  Endoscopes are also commonly used to perform surgical, therapeutic, diagnostic, or other medical procedures under direct visualization.  A conventional imaging endoscope used for such procedures includes an illuminating mechanism such as a fiber optic light guide connected to a proximal source of light, and an imaging means such as an imaging light guide to carry an image to a remote camera, or eye piece, or a miniature video camera within the endoscope itself.  In addition, most endoscopes include one or more working channels through which medical devices such as biopsy forceps, snares, fulguration probes and other tools may be passed in order to perform a procedure at a desired location in the patient's body.

[003]         Navigation of the endoscope through complex and tortuous paths is critical to the success of the examination with minimum pain, side effects, risk, or sedation to the patient.  To this end, modern endoscopes include means for deflecting the distal tip of the scope to follow the pathway of the structure under examination, with minimum deflection or friction force upon the surrounding tissue.  Control cables similar to bicycle brake cables are carried within the endoscope body in order to connect an articulation joint adjacent to the distal end to a set of control knobs at the proximal endoscope handle.  By manipulating the control knobs, the operator is usually able to steer the endoscope during insertion and direct it to a region of interest.  Common operator complaints about traditional endoscopes include their limited flexibility, limited column strength, and limited operator control of stiffness along the endoscope length.

[004]         Conventional endoscopes are expensive, hand assembled medical devices costing in the range of $25,000 for an endoscope, and much more for the associated operator console.  Because of this expense, these conventional endoscopes are built to withstand repeated disinfections and use upon many patients.  Conventional endoscopes are generally built of sturdy materials, which decreases the flexibility of the scope and thus can decrease patient comfort.  Despite this, conventional endoscopes are complex and fragile instruments that frequently need expensive repair as a result of damage during use or during a disinfection procedure.

[005]         Typically, the distal shaft on a conventional reusable endoscope is constructed with one or more wide...