Jul 222010

Robotic Surgeons Next?

Researchers have demonstrated that a robot guided by 3-D ultrasound and artificial intelligence can locate lesions in simulated breast and prostate tissue and take biopsies without human assistance. A team of bioengineers at Duke University, North Carolina, ‘souped up’ an existing robot arm with a purpose-built ultrasound system which acts as the robot’s ‘eyes’ by collecting data from its scan and locating its target. An artificial intelligence program processes the real-time 3D information from the ultrasound and gives the robot specific commands to perform using a mechanical ‘hand’ that can manipulate the same biopsy plunger device used by doctors.

“Earlier this year the team demonstrated that the robot could locate simulated calcifications and cysts in simulated breast tissue without human guidance with high accuracy and repeatability,” said Kaicheng Liang, an engineering graduate and member of the research team. “Now we have shown that the robot can sample up to eight different spots in simulated human prostate tissue.”

The most recent research, reported in the current issue of Ultrasonic Imaging journal, demonstrated that the robot was able to guide the plunger to eight different locations in 93 percent of its attempts. The robot’s ability to take multiple samples is important function because multiple samples can help determine the extent of lesions.

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