Engineers at the University of Duke, have developed a prototype robot that can locate pieces of metal small size (one millimeter) in the flesh, and then guide a needle to their exact location, without the Using a human assistance. With this prototype the researchers are now convinced that it will be possible also to treat injuries on the battlefield, performing surgery high complexity, such as placing or removing radioactive seeds used in the treatment of prostate or other cancers.
In the experiments, the robot, set at a table, is equipped with a new “view” 3D ultrasound was developed at Duke University. An artificial intelligence program acts as the “brains” of the robot, ie to recover the 3D information in real time, processes, and then give orders to specific action. In their simulations, the researchers used small pieces of 2mm needles similar to shrapnel and subject to the magnetization. AJ Rogers, recent graduate in Bio-Engineering, explains: “We have attached an electromagnet to our 3D probe to vibrate the piece of metal, just enough to detect it. Once the coordinates were established by the computer, it can guide a needle to the location of the shrapnel. ”
The design of an operational system is now reached, the new goal of researchers is to make a reliable and safe way to achieve this type of operation in routine: “We have shown that in principle the system works “says Smith. “It may be very difficult with conventional means of detecting small shrapnel, including a battlefield. The army has an important program in the development of surgical robots in a combat environment and this technological advance could play a major role. ”
In addition to the application of recovery of radioactive seeds used in the treatment of prostate cancer, Smith says that the robot could be very useful for the removal of small metal objects at eye level. In recent experiments, the robot has succeeded in his main task: find a small piece of metal in a bath of cold water, then directing a needle on the end of a robotic arm to its place. The robot was used with 3 axes of mobility. For future tests, the researchers plan to use a robotic arm with 6 degrees of freedom.
The study was conducted in the laboratory of Stephen Smith, director of the Duke University Ultrasound Transducer Group. The results of the experiment will be published in the July issue of the journal IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control. The research was funded by the National Institute of Health.