Swall-E: A robotic in-vitro simulation of human swallowing.

Research paper by Yo Y Fujiso, Nicolas N Perrin, Julian J van der Giessen, Nihal Engin NE Vrana, Fabrice F Neveu, Virginie V Woisard

Indexed on: 20 Dec '18Published on: 20 Dec '18Published in: PloS one


Swallowing is a complex physiological function that can be studied through medical imagery techniques such as videofluoroscopy (VFS), dynamic magnetic resonance imagery (MRI) and fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES). VFS is the gold standard although it exposes the subjects to radiations. In-vitro modeling of human swallowing has been conducted with limited results so far. Some experiments were reported on robotic reproduction of oral and esophageal phases of swallowing, but high fidelity reproduction of pharyngeal phase of swallowing has not been reported yet. To that end, we designed and developed a robotic simulator of the pharyngeal phase of human swallowing named Swall-E. 17 actuators integrated in the robot enable the mimicking of important physiological mechanisms occurring during the pharyngeal swallowing, such as the vocal fold closure, laryngeal elevation or epiglottis tilt. Moreover, the associated computer interface allows a control of the actuation of these mechanisms at a spatio-temporal accuracy of 0.025 mm and 20 ms. In this study preliminary experiments of normal pharyngeal swallowing simulated on Swall-E are presented. These experiments show that a 10 ml thick bolus can be swallowed by the robot in less than 1 s without any aspiration of bolus material into the synthetic anatomical laryngo-tracheal conduit.