The days when the surgeon's knife ruled in the operating theatre are numbered, for a team of researchers are developing new generation of sophisticated surgical robots, known as the i-Snake, which could allow surgeons to carry out complex procedures without having to cut into the patient's skin.
A team at Imperial College has been granted 2.1 million pounds to build and test the surgical robots.
The i-Snake, a long tube housing special motors, sensors and imaging tools, has the potential to allow complex heart and bowel operations to be carried out without making an incision.
According to the research team, the i-Snake could also be used to detect problems in the gut and bowel by acting as the surgeon's hands and eyes in hard to reach places inside the body.
The Imperial College team, which includes health minister and surgeon Lord Ara Darzi, will test the device in the laboratory first, before using it on patients.
Lord Darzi said i-Snake could be in use within five years, resulting in cheaper operations and faster recovery times for patients.
The robot's diameter will vary between that of a 5p and a 10p piece and it will contain fibre-optic cables to relay information to the surgeon.
"The unrivalled imaging and sensing capabilities coupled with the accessibility and sensitivity of i-Snake will enable more complex diagnostic and therapeutic procedures than are currently possible," BBC quoted Lord Darzi, as saying.
"The cost benefits that i-Snake will introduce include earlier, cheaper and less invasive treatment, faster recovery and procedure times and intangible benefits through an increase in patient care and quality of life," he added.
Dr Ted Bianco, director of technology transfer at the Wellcome Trust, said: "Gone are the days when the surgeon's knife ruled in the operating theatre. The future of surgery is in smart devices like i-Snake."