“MRI Stealth” robot for prostate interventions
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The paper reports an important achievement in MRI instrumentation, a pneumatic, fully actuated robot located within the scanner alongside the patient and operating under remote control based on the images. Previous MRI robots commonly used piezoelectric actuation limiting their compatibility. Pneumatics is an ideal choice for MRI compatibility because it is decoupled from electromagnetism, but pneumatic actuators were hardly controllable. This achievement was possible due to a recent technology breakthrough, the invention of a new type of pneumatic motor, PneuStep 1, designed for the robot reported here with uncompromised MRI compatibility, high-precision, and medical safety. MrBot is one of the "MRI stealth" robots today (the second is described in this issue by Zangos et al.). Both of these systems are also multi-imager compatible, being able to operate with the imager of choice or cross-imaging modalities. For MRI compatibility the robot is exclusively constructed of nonmagnetic and dielectric materials such as plastics, ceramics, crystals, rubbers and is electricity free. Light-based encoding is used for feedback, so that all electric components are distally located outside the imager's room. MRI robots are modern, digital medical instruments in line with advanced imaging equipment and methods. These allow for accessing patients within closed bore scanners and performing interventions under direct (in scanner) imaging feedback. MRI robots could allow e.g. to biopsy small lesions imaged with cutting edge cancer imaging methods, or precisely deploy localized therapy at cancer foci. Our robot is the first to show the feasibility of fully automated in-scanner interventions. It is customized for the prostate and operates transperineally for needle interventions. It can accommodate various needle drivers for different percutaneous procedures such as biopsy, thermal ablations, or brachytherapy. The first needle driver is customized for fully automated low-dose radiation seed brachytherapy. This paper gives an introduction to the challenges of MRI robot compatibility and presents the solutions adopted in making the MrBot. Its multi-imager compatibility and other preclinical tests are included. The robot shows the technical feasibility of MRI-guided prostate interventions, yet its clinical utility is still to be determined.
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