Robotic system 'could aid positioning of interventional needles'


A new robotic arm system has demonstrated potential in helping doctors to find the ideal position for interventional needles in applications such as biopsies.

Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing, Engineering and Automation have modified a robotic arm to help doctors position a needle in around five minutes, compared to 30 minutes with conventional techniques.

“A new robotic system for positioning interventional needles could offer a number of operational benefits for doctors, according to a new study.“

The process involves taking a computed tomography scan of the patient, with the robot arm using a calibration tool to determine the ideal position to target a specific point in the image. Special software then analyses the image and displays the needle on top of it to show the ideal placement.

In cases where the doctor is administering treatment rather than taking a biopsy, the software can also simulate the effect of treatment, while determining the number of needles and the positions required to, for example, kill off a tumour.

The robot arm is used to move the needle to the calculated position and place it on the skin at the correct angle, though the actual insertion is left to the doctor.

Fraunhofer Institute researcher Andreas Rothfuss said: "Whereas humans struggle to position this sort of needle, it's hard to beat a robot designed for the purpose. Our system removes burdens for doctors while leaving them in control."

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