Flexible robotics with electromagnetic tracking improves safety and efficiency during in vitro endovascular navigation

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One limitation of the use of robotic catheters is the lack of real-time three-dimensional (3D) localization and position updating: they are still navigated based on two-dimensional (2D) X-ray fluoroscopic projection images. Our goal was to evaluate whether incorporating an electromagnetic (EM) sensor on a robotic catheter tip could improve endovascular navigation.


Six users were tasked to navigate using a robotic catheter with incorporated EM sensors in an aortic aneurysm phantom. All users cannulated two anatomic targets (left renal artery and posterior “gate”) using four visualization modes: (1) standard fluoroscopy mode (control), (2) 2D fluoroscopy mode showing real-time virtual catheter orientation from EM tracking, (3) 3D model of the phantom with anteroposterior and endoluminal view, and (4) 3D model with anteroposterior and lateral view. Standard X-ray fluoroscopy was always available. Cannulation and fluoroscopy times were noted for every mode. 3D positions of the EM tip sensor were recorded at 4 Hz to establish kinematic metrics.


The EM sensor-incorporated catheter navigated as expected according to all users. The success rate for cannulation was 100%. For the posterior gate target, mean cannulation times in minutes:seconds were 8:12, 4:19, 4:29, and 3:09, respectively, for modes 1, 2, 3 and 4 (P= .013), and mean fluoroscopy times were 274, 20, 29, and 2 seconds, respectively (P= .001). 3D path lengths, spectral arc length, root mean dimensionless jerk, and number of submovements were significantly improved when EM tracking was used (P< .05), showing higher quality of catheter movement with EM navigation.


The EM tracked robotic catheter allowed better real-time 3D orientation, facilitating navigation, with a reduction in cannulation and fluoroscopy times and improvement of motion consistency and efficiency.

Clinical Relevance:

We show here how the combination of robotic endovascular navigation and electromagnetic tracking system has the potential to improve procedural safety and efficacy and to lead toward “fluoroscopy-free” endovascular surgery.

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