Robotic catheter technology provides guidance during difficult cases or assisting in operations where there is a lack of highly experienced surgeons.
FREMONT, CA: Assisting surgeries, dispensing medication, disinfecting rooms, keeping company: believe it or not, these are the tasks robots will soon undertake in medical practice. These new assistants will definitely make a difference in every field of medicine. Medical research firms have even developed a robot that is able to navigate autonomously inside the body for the first time. This robotic catheter can find its way along the walls of a beating, blood-filled heart to a leaky valve without a surgeon’s guidance. Read on to know more.
The robotic catheter navigates using an optical touch sensor, informed by a map of the cardiac anatomy and preoperative scans. The touch sensor leverages artificial intelligence and image processing algorithms to allow the catheter to find out where it is in the heart and where it needs to go. The algorithms can help the catheter find out what type of tissue it’s touching, whe
re it is in the heart, and how it should opt for its next move to get where the surgeon wants it to go.
For the demo, the latest robotic catheter performed a technically demanding procedure known as paravalvular aortic leak closure, which repairs replacement heart valves that have begun leaking around the edges. Once the robotic catheter reaches the leak location, an experienced cardiac surgeon can take control and insert a plug to close the leak. In trials, the robotic catheter successfully navigated to heart valve leaks in the same amount of time as the surgeon.
Through a navigational technique, the robotic catheter’s optical touch sensor sampled its environment at regular intervals to build mental maps of unfamiliar, dark environments. The sensor showed that the catheter, whether it was touching blood, the heart wall, or a valve, and how hard it was to keep it from damaging the heart. Data from imaging and machine learning algorithms aid the catheter in interpreting visual features. In this way, the robotic catheter can advance by itself from the base of the heart, along the wall of the left ventricle, and around the leaky valve until it reached the location.