Saturday, July 24, 2010

Next-Generation Robotic Surgeons

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 the assiatance of human beings. At Duke University, North Carolina, A team of bioengineers '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 the human doctors.
The most recent research that is 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 as multiple samples can help determine the extent of lesions.The researchers say an important challenge to be overcome is the speed of data acquisition and processing, though they are confident this can be overcome with faster processors and better algorithms but to be clinically and medically useful, all of the robot’s actions would need to be in real time.

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