A team of scientists at Harvard Medical School in Boston Children’s Hospital has developed a robotic catheter, a thin tube widely used in surgeries to deliver devices or drugs, to self-navigate its way through a still-beating heart. The catheter has outfitted with a camera and LED light on its tip and is connected to a motor system that controls its movement from the other end. The scientists were tested that robotic catheter in 83 trials on five pigs, where it was successfully navigating the correct location 95 percent of the time with no damage to ventricular walls.
According to the reports, at the start of each procedure, a doctor cut an incision in the bottom of the heart, where the robotic catheter was then inserted and tasked with autonomously navigating to the location of the leak, which it was given relative to other parts of the heart. According to a statement, by taking over the mundane task of reaching the leaks, the robotic catheter cuts down the mental burden of doctors so they can focus on plugging the holes. To fix a leaky valve implant, doctors currently utilize visual clues given by ultrasound and what they feel with their hands to navigate a catheter.
However, the autonomous catheter did not arrive at the desired valve faster than a manually directed; the researchers noted in the study that the algorithm will be capable of learning from each procedure, improving both pace and accuracy. Further, autonomous navigation would enable doctors to focus on critical analysis of the information collected from the catheter in spite of spending time and energy on the wearisome task of instrument control.