TransEnterix, a Morrisville medical device company that uses robotics to improve minimally invasive surgery, is making big news by going small.

The company, founded in 2006, by Synecor, a Chapel Hill business accelerator that spun out of Duke University in 2001 to commercialize medical device inventions, says European surgeons have performed the first 3-millimeter micro laparoscopic robotic surgeries in the world using the Senhance Surgical Robot.

The 3mm instruments enable so-called micro laparoscopy procedures, allowing surgeons to make tiny incisions that leave virtually no scars for patients.

Senhance is a multi-port robotic system that allows multiple arms to control instruments and an eye-sensing camera with haptic feedback, or the sense of touch. The system simulates laparoscopic motion familiar to experienced surgeons and features three-dimensional, high-definition vision technology.

TransEnterix acquired Senhance, previously called ALF-X, in 2015 by purchasing the surgical robotics division of SOFAR S.p.A., an Italian health care company. The cash and stock deal totaled $99.8 million.

European regulators have granted Senhance a CE Mark, a regulatory approval allowing its sale in countries within the European Economic Area for laparoscopic abdominal and pelvic surgery, as well as limited thoracic operations excluding cardiac and vascular surgery. The system is not yet available for use in the United States, but it is under FDA review and the company expects approval in 2017.

Doctors at CHU Saint-Ètienne in France, and at the Policlinico A. Gemelli Foundation in Rome, performed the surgeries with the 3mm devices. Professor Celine Chauleur and Dr. Salvatore Gueli Alletti, gynecologic oncologists, and Dr. Gabriele Barabino, a general surgeon, were the first surgeons in the world to use micro laparoscopic instruments with an abdominal robotic surgery platform. The surgeons successfully performed multiple cases in gynecologic and general surgery such as; ovarian cystectomy, endometrial excision, total laparoscopic hysterectomy, bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy and cholecystectomy utilizing robotic microlap instruments.

“Microlaparoscopy with robotic assistance is now a reality utilizing Senhance,” said Todd Pope, president and CEO of TransEnterix. “The use of microlaparoscopy is a growing trend, but it can be challenging to manually control and stabilize such small instruments. We believe Senhance robotic assistance can enable surgeons to expand their use of virtually scarless surgery in more patients, and creates an additional way robotics can bring value over traditional manual approaches.”

Added Barabino, “Patients are consistently interested in the least invasive approach possible. Utilizing 3mm microlap instruments with the Senhance Surgical Robot creates a virtually scarless approach with the precision of robotics to control such small instruments with delicate haptic force feedback.”

(C) N.C. Biotechnology Center