Engineers at the University of Twente in The Netherlands have unveiled a pneumatically powered robot, called Stormram 4, able to take biopsy samples while inside an MRI machine. In tests conducted by the researchers on phantom models of the breast the investigators were able to achieve sub-millimeter precision in reaching their targets. Currently, scans are taken prior to a biopsy and are used to guide the needle.
Soft tissue, particularly in the breast, moves around and can displace the target lesion significantly compared to when a scan was taken. Performing a biopsy under MRI guidance may significantly improve the effectiveness, safety, and value of biopsies.
The Stormram 4 is made out of 3D printed plastic and instead of electric motors and wires, it relies on carefully controlled bursts of pressurised air to pan, tilt, and deploy the needle. The air lines run about five yards (meters) to a computer controlled pumping mechanism.
This allows the robot itself to be around a powerful magnet, operated by a computer, and allowing for live visualisation of the target while moving towards it.