At the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation engineers have developed a robotic system for performing needle biopsies and delivering ablation needles deep into the body. Current techniques are time consuming, requiring physicians to be very careful in preparing a trajectory and checking that it under the live CT guidance. The process can take up hours for something that may seem like it should only be a couple minutes.
The team modified a commercial robot to position the needle accurately based on CT scans. A procedure starts by first performing a CT scan on the patient, allowing the robot to calibrate against the scan. A virtual representation of the patient’s anatomy is then used to drive a virtual needle to see how it would penetrate the patient. The same simulation can also mimic how an ablation would happen and how much surrounding tissue it would affect. Once all the preparatory steps are taken, the calibration component where the needle would be is removed and replaced with the needle. The robot then places the needle against the skin at the agreed angle, handing over the rest to the physician who drives the needle through the channel within the robot and precisely into the target.
During insertion a fluoroscope is used to confirm the needles’s location. Since the robot is holding onto the needle, the physician can step away from the X-ray source and image the needle’s location without irradiating himself, and potentially reducing the number of X-rays taken of the patient.
The technology will be on show at MEDICA in Dusseldorf, Germany in November.