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Robots May Perform Breast Biopsy In The Near Future

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Duke researchers envision a day in the not so distant future when robots will be performing breast biopsy. Engineers have designed an artificial intelligence program that takes 3-dimensional information and feeds it to the robot that then guides a needle into a woman's breast to take a tissue sample.

Scientists say the breast biopsy-performing robot will be cost effective and convenient for women. Should a mammogram look suspicious, the robot can be used to immediately take a sample of breast tissue, saving time. The robot replaces the need for human presence during a breast biopsy procedure.

Ned Light, an engineer in the laboratory of Stephen Smith, director of the Duke University Ultrasound Transducer Group explains, "After detecting the 'lesion' in a simulated breast, the robot was able to calculate its position and then guide a biopsy to its exact location." The initial studies, using a basic program and basic robotic technology showed such positive results, the researchers are convinced breast biopsy and other simple procedures can be performed by robots within the next five to ten years.

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Smith says, "The technology behind robotic surgery has grown dramatically, as evidenced by the Da Vinci robot system, which is widely used in U.S. hospitals. The same is true of artificial intelligence, which was unknown 20 years ago, and is now the standard in screening pathology samples."

The researchers say their robot has performed successfully. The group used a fake sponge breast with a tiny piece of metal embedded inside to test the robot's ability to retrieve breast tissue for biopsy.

Follow-up experiments will use turkey breasts that more closely resemble the density of a woman's breast.

Robots that perform breast biopsy sound good to Duke researchers. Feasibility studies show that robots really may replace your surgeon for performing breast biopsies and other minor procedures in the near future. .

Source: dukenews.duke.edu/
Duke Researchers Develop Breast Biopsy Robot