The robot goes alongside the patient in the MRI scanner and is controlled remotely by observing the images on the MR. The motor is rigged with fiber optics, which feeds information back to the computer in real time, allowing for both guidance and readjustment.
"The robot moves slowly but precisely, and our experiments show that the needle always comes within a millimeter of the target," says Stoianovici. This type of precision control will allow physicians to use instruments in ways that currently are not possible, he says.
"This remarkable robot has a lot of promise - the wave of the future is image-guided surgery to better target, diagnose and treat cancers with minimally invasive techniques," says Li-Ming Su, M.D., an associate professor of urology and director of laparoscopic and robotic urologic surgery at the Brady Urological Institute at Hopkins.
The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, and a grant from the Johns Hopkins Medicine Alliance for Science and Technology Development Industry Committee. Current experiments with the robot are supported by the Patrick C. Walsh Foundation.
Authors on the paper are Stoianovici, Alexandru Patriciu, Doru Petrisor, Dumitru Mazilu, and Louis Kavoussi, all of Hopkins.
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