An active cannula or sleeve which does more than merely maintain a channel or passage is usable to enlarge a channel or passage, to position a scope or instrument, to move or locate tissue, etc. The cannula can vary in size or shape as needed, intraoperatively. Because a cannula of the present invention is expandable, the surgeon can make a small relatively small incision, stretch the tissue with the expandable cannula, contract the cannula and remove it, allowing the skin to come back to its unstretched condition. Thus, a smaller incision can be made to fit the same size instrument. This results in less trauma and scarring and an easier operation. The cannulas are or can assume such a non-circular shape, to fit into a natural skin opening and cause less trauma. The devices can be used to seal off a space; to expand an existing space or a potential space for working or visualization; to move tissue (for example, to stretch an incision) or to protect it.