A Robotic System for Real-time Tumor Manipulation During Image Guided Breast Biopsy


Early detection of breast cancer, the most common cancer among American women and the second most deadly, has been proven to reduce mortality by about 20% to 35%. In order to diagnose a patient with breast cancer, a sample of tissue must be taken for analysis. Needle biopsy, the most commonly practiced method to collect tissue samples for histopathological analysis, poses significant technical challenges concerning accurate steering and precise placement of a biopsy needle at the target in breast tissue. During needle insertion, the complex tissues of the breast induces the small biopsy target to deflect away from its original location. This target mobility, coupled with the difficulty to perform the procedure in the first place, often leads to multiple insertion attempts by the physician to successfully sample the target tissue. Researchers from Vanderbilt University and the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital have collaborated to create a robot-assisted biopsy system that manipulates the soft tissue target to the needle tip rather than the other way around.

Addressed Need

Breast tissue is inhomogeneous, so if the tip of the needle reaches an interface between two different types of tissue, its further insertion will push the tissue instead of piercing it, causing unwanted deformations that move the target away from its original location. This difficulty often results in several attempts to insert the needle, leading to physician fatigue and patient discomfort. Many robotic systems have been developed to improve the accuracy of needle insertions, but these systems do not compensate for tumor movement during the insertion. Steerable needle devices have also been developed to guide the needle tip towards the tumor, although tissue damage is often caused inside the breast during steering of the needle. Though finite element methods have been developed to accurately predict and compensate for tumor movement during needle insertion, geometric and mechanical properties of the breast are required for finite element analysis, which takes approximately half an hour.

Technology Description

Instead of steering the needle toward the target during insertion, this novel external robotic system guides the target and positions it in-line with the needle. An image acquisition system provides input for the actuation of force applicators that can manipulate the target to position itself in line with the needle’s path. This minimizes the number of required needle insertions and the degree of tissue damage.

Technology Features

• A manipulation system including several force applicators configured to be positioned around the soft tissue containing the target

• An image acquisition system including an imaging probe for generating an image of the soft tissue containing the target

• A control system for actuating the several applicators to apply forces on the soft tissue in response to a detected deflection of the target to move the target back in line with the path of the instrumentmanipulate the target to position itself in line with the needle’s path. This minimizes the number of required needle insertions and the degree of tissue damage.

Intellectual Property Status

U.S. Patent # 8,066,644: System, method, and device for positioning a target located within soft tissue in a path of an instrument

Nilanjan SarkarTarun PodderVishnu Mallapragada
Licensing manager: 
Ashok Choudhury

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