Using a needle on a patient is one of the most basic and less invasive procedures a doctor has to learn and do. It is, however, one of the most important procedures, since it is used to administer medicine and to do tests. At this moment in time the correct usage of a needle is completely dependent on the skill of the doctor. This will always lead to a certain amount of risk of tissue damage.
The Dutch Robotics project PITON will be the first steerable MRI compatible robotic instrument. PITON, which stands for Percutaneous Instruments Tele-Operated Needles, will minimize damage to the patient’s tissue and will be able to reach places in the human body that are normally not accessible. This will drastically reduce the chance of wrong diagnoses. The robotic needle is equipped with sensors that will pick up signals for the surrounding tissue, and will send this back to the robot control system and subsequently the best solution will be found to administer the needle.
An added feature of this needle is that it will be fully functional, even in an MRI environment, even though it would normally not be possible to read the patient by human hand. This does mean that the needle and the rest of the robot device cannot be made from any magnetic materials, because this will disturb MRI signals.