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First steps toward autonomous robot surgeries
Date:5/6/2008

p>The Duke laboratory has a long track record of modifying traditional 2-D ultrasound like that used to image babies in utero into the more advanced 3-D scans. After inventing the technique in 1991, the team also has shown its utility in developing specialized catheters and endoscopes for real-time imaging of blood vessels in the heart and brain.

In the latest experiment, the robot successfully performed its main task: directing a needle on the end of the robotic arm to touch the tip of another needle within a blood vessel graft. The robots needle was guided by a tiny 3-D ultrasound transducer, the wand that collects the 3-D images, attached to a catheter commonly used in angioplasty procedures.

The robot was able to accurately direct needle probes to target needles based on the information sent by the catheter transducer, said John Whitman, a senior engineering student in Smiths laboratory and first author on both papers. The ability of the robot to guide a probe within a vascular graft is a first step toward further testing the system in animal models.

While the research will continue to refine the ability of robots to perform independent procedures, the new technology could also have more direct and immediate applications.

Currently, cardiologists doing catheter-based procedures use fluoroscopy, which employs radiation, to guide their actions, Smith said. Putting a 3-D ultrasound transducer on the end of the catheter could provide clearer images to the physician and greatly reduce the need for patients to be exposed to radiation.

In the earlier experiments, the tabletop robot arm successfully touched a needle on the arm to another needle in a water bath. Then it performed a simulated biopsy of a cyst, fashioned out of a liquid-filled balloon in a medium designed to simulate tissue.

These experiments demonstrated the feasibility of autonomous robots accomplishing simulated tasks under the guidance of 3-D ultr
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Contact: Richard Merritt
richard.merritt@duke.edu
919-660-8414
Duke University
Source:Eurekalert

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