Most breast biopsies are currently performed using ultrasound and handheld needles, guided by previously taken radiological images. The problem is that humans aren’t always perfect and what is imaged during an MRI scan or mammography may look different later under ultrasound. Performing a biopsy right inside the MRI machine may provide incredibly accurate targeting of suspect lesions. That, though, would require a robot small enough to fit near the patient inside the MRI, but more importantly, the robot can’t be influenced by the strong magnetic field and therefore can’t work using any electronics.
Researchers at University of Twente in The Netherlands have been working on just such a robot (see flashbacks below) and have now unveiled the latest prototype, called Sunram 5. The MR safe biopsy robot has a single metallic component, and that is the MR-conditional needle itself. The rest is rigid plastic and flexible tubes, all powered by air pressure delivered from special pumps.
Here’s a video presenting the new MR safe robot: