Siemens and KUKA Robotics Join Surgical Robot Project
Kagan Pittman posted on February 03, 2016 |

Engineers and researchers from Siemens and KUKA Robotics are teaming up with European universities to bring a robotic touch to improving biopsy precision and reducing the need for expensive and time-consuming medical imaging.

The MRI and Ultrasound Robotic Assisted Biopsy (MURAB) project is lead by the University of Twente (UT), where the collective of researchers and engineers are developing a new surgical robot arm. The robot will be equipped with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound technology.

The MURAB robot will guide surgical biopsies and reduce the percentage of false negatives.

“If a mammography shows a suspicious image, then we need to take a small piece of tissue for lab examination, but it’s difficult to determine precisely where the biopsy should be carried out,” said Foad Sojoodi Farimani, a lead researcher at UT. “As a result, we overlook too many patients who do indeed have a problem. That’s an issue we hope to solve.”

Current screening techniques for breast cancer result in 10 to 20 percent of patients wrongly receiving negative results.

Robot Arm Technology

MRI scanners do not generate any radiation, have no side effects and allow for precise information for where a biopsy should occur.

However, the process is very expensive and time consuming. “Even wealthier countries can’t afford any large-scale screening programmes with MRI,” Farimani said.

To solve these issues, the engineers and researchers from Siemens and KUKA, working with universities in Verona and Vienna, are looking to combine aspects of an MRI scanner with cheaper technologies like ultrasound and pressure sensors.

The system first takes an MRI image and then overlays it with an image taken by the ultrasound and pressure sensors. The sharper image is used to locate suspicious tissue within the ultrasound.

“This produces an offline MRI image that you can combine, during the biopsy, with online images from the ultrasound sensor,” Farimani said. “One of the biggest challenges in this project is to use the precise MRI image to locate suspicious tissue in the much more indistinct ultrasound image.”

With this technology, patients need only be scanned for 15 to 20 minutes, rather than 45 to 60 in an MRI scanner.

Challenges for the MURAB Project

UT is working with the Radboud University Medical Center and the ZGT Hospital group to bring the MURAB project to market – the most difficult stage of the venture.

“The robotics in this project might actually be the simplest issue. Actually getting medical technology to market is often easier said than done,” Farimani said.

Research teams hope further test and technological refinement can open the door to performing biopsies for muscle diseases among other possibilities.

The MURAB project received funding from Horizon 2020 for US$4.6 million.

Allied Market Research recently released a report titled, World Surgical Robotics Market-Opportunities and Forecasts, 2014-2020, predicting global sales of surgical robots to reach US$6.4 billion by 2020.

Recommended For You

Recommended For You