A Robotic Rectum Can Train Doctors to Better Probe Butts

Imperial College London
Imperial College London / Imperial College London

A new device could change rectal exams for the better. Designed at Imperial College London, a robotic rectum creates a more true-to-life training experience for young doctors and nurses, allowing more precise training, Science Alert reports.

Medical schools already use model butts to teach students rectal exam protocol, but this one provides a more accurate learning environment. The silicon rectum can be altered to mimic normal variations in anatomy as well as the feeling of a cancerous gland. Hooked up to a computer, the robotic butt visualizes what is happening within the rectum in a 3D model as the trainee is going through the exam.

"We have already asked a number of doctors and nurses—including prostate specialists and cancer surgeons—to trial the technology," the robotic rectum’s creator, Alejandro Granados, said in a press release. "They commented on the great advantage of being able to alter the anatomy. The size and shape of the rectum and prostate can vary greatly from person to person, and this technology enables medics to practice their skills in many different virtual patients."

They also noted that because these examinations are performed solely by feel, experiencing a realistic sensation is crucial, Granados said. To that end, in order to study the best trajectory and pressure a doctor should apply during an exam, Granados and his team are also going to deploy small fingertip pressure sensors that doctors can wear while examining patients, which will collect data about how experienced practitioners do their work.

The robotic training rectum will hopefully make it into medical schools one day, but they may be pricey—about $13,000. But perhaps that's a small price to pay for a generation of well-trained rectum probers.

[h/t Science Alert]

All images courtesy Imperial College London

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