MRI-Compatible Robot Aims to Improve Breast Cancer Biopsies

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The University of Twente in Enschede, Netherlands recently introduced “the world’s smallest and most accurate 3D-printed biopsy robot,” called the Stormram 4.  The device is designed to carry out biopsies during breast cancer scans and was developed by a team at the university’s Robotics and Mechanics lab in collaboration with Ziekenhuis Groep Twente.

The Stormram 4 can be used inside an MRI scanner because it is constructed entirely of plastic and is small enough to fit inside the MRI scanner’s narrow tunnel.  The device is powered by rectilinear and curved air-pressure motors, which are controlled by an operator outside of the MRI scanner.  New Atlas reports that the device allows the biopsy procedure to be carried out with sub-millimeter precision, which is impossible to achieve manually.

Vincent Groenhuis MSc, one of the Stormram 4 developers, spoke with Digital Trends about the new device.  He stated:

The robotic system can manipulate the needle more precisely toward target coordinates of the lesion inside the body, on the first attempt . . . . This will improve the accuracy of the biopsy procedure compared to the current manual practice. Secondly, the needle insertion can be performed inside the MRI scanner itself, so that the needle can be followed under nearly real-time imaging guidance. The required time to perform the biopsy is also shorter, allowing more effective use of the MRI scanner facilities.

According to Digital Trends, the Stormram 4 is in its final stages of design, after which Groenhuis and his team plan for the device to undergo clinical testing in order to obtain regulatory approval.

The Stormram 4 is one of several MRI-compatible robots under development in the field of cancer diagnosis and treatment.  Earlier this year, researchers at Johns Hopkins reported on a successful prostate biopsy trial of an MRI-compatible biopsy robot called MrBot.  According to the Urology Robotics Lab at Johns Hopkins, MrBot is the “first fully actuated MRI robot.”

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