Robotically-Steered Needles May Improve Diagnostic Procedures

A major advantage of steering flexible needles is that one can avoid obstacles or sensitive tissues and can re-orient the path of the needle in real time as you insert the needle.

Photo Caption: The robotic needle system in use.

The University of Twente has developed a robot-assisted system for steering flexible needles that can reach their target in tissue with sub-millimeter level accuracy.

The needle is controlled by a robot and is tracked in real time using ultrasound images. This ensures that is possible to adjust the needle’s path and guide it guide through biological tissue with sub-millimeter level accuracy.

During many diagnostic and therapeutic procedures a needle is inserted into soft tissue, such as during biopsies, or inserting radioactive seeds in order to combat prostate cancer. In many of these operations the accurate positioning of the needle is of the utmost importance.

In general, rigid needles with a relatively large diameter are used in these procedures. However, the drawback of these needles is that they cannot be maneuvered when inserted into tissue and hence cannot avoid any obstacles. In addition, the tissue and organs deform during needle insertion. As a result, the needle often misses its target.

A major advantage of steering flexible needles is that one can avoid obstacles or sensitive tissues and can re-orient the path of the needle in real time as you insert the needle.

There’s also a control system for the clinicians. The clinician inserts the needle and is given guidance by the robotic system with the help of vibrations and visual feedback. It could be possible in the future to have the needle guided by a clinician who is in a different location than the patient.

The researchers believe the system is 3-4 years away from starting clinical trials.

[Source:] University of Twente
[Via:] Gizmag


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