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New Robotic Catheters Can Self-Navigate the Heart

Bioengineers used machine learning to create a self-driving medical robot catheter that can navigate a heart.

Catheter View / Image: Fagogenis
Catheter View / Image: Fagogenis

A recent Discover article discussed the latest development in the world of catheters. A team of researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts has created a robotic catheter that can navigate its way through a beating heart without the aid of a surgeon’s guiding hand. The device completed 83 trials on five different live pigs, and hit its target 95% of the time, roughly the same success rate as an experienced surgeon. Using a catheter that “self-drives” frees the surgeon up to focus on more specific aspects of a procedure, yielding better outcomes for the patient.

The device is intended for a procedure that corrects aortic valve stenosis, a condition that causes the valve between heart chambers to constrict. The robotic catheter features an LED light and camera, and is touch-sensitive enough to know if it comes in contact with blood, heart tissue, or the valve. Once in place, the surgeon can deploy a plug to stop the leak in the heart. Artificial intelligence inside the device means that it continues to learn and improve.

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