CWRU team building an MRI-guided robotic heart catheter

November 11, 2013

In a matter of years, a doctor may see real-time images of a patient's beating heart and steer a robotic catheter through its chambers using the push and pull of magnetic fields while the patient lies inside a magnetic resonance imager.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University have received a $1.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to perfect such technology over the next four years.

The project aims to improve treatment of arterial fibrillation—an irregular beat that occurs when electrical conductivity in the short-circuits and can lead to a stroke or heart disease.

To treat the problem, doctors slip a through a vein in the thigh up into the heart, where an electrode tip is used to burn, or ablate, the tissues involved in the short-circuiting. When successful, this allows the heart's electrical currents to travel smoothly, resulting in normal beating and blood flow.

But doctors sometimes have trouble maintaining contact with the target tissue. A beating heart moves the target, and flowing blood creates turbulence similar to airplanes through wind currents. The two-dimensional view produced through fluoroscopy imaging is often grainy or blurry. The result is surgeons sometimes burn more tissue than necessary, or not enough to eliminate the problem.

"With our technologies, we believe physicians will be able to accurately navigate and target tissues; they will see exactly where they are inside the heart in and see the tissues they are ablating in real time," said M. Cenk Cavusoglu, professor of electrical engineering and computer science and principal investigator on the project.

Doctors will still hand-feed the catheter from thigh to heart. But once there, the robotics will take over, Cavusoglu said.

To make a catheter robotic, the researchers have wrapped the inch behind the tip in tiny copper coils. By passing an electrical current through them, the coils create a .

When this magnetic field is paired with the magnetic field created inside the MRI to produce images, the catheter has the ability to move. In order to control the movement, Cavusoglu's lab is now developing software to use the fields like a pair of deftly controlled bar magnets.

A doctor using a joystick or touch screen will guide the catheter inside the patient. In the heart, to turn the catheter to the left or right, a current will be applied to coils in either direction.

The magnetic fields can produce the same effect as aiming two like poles of magnets at each other: they repel. Or aiming two unlike poles at each other: they attract. But, because the MRI field is much stronger, it's the catheter that moves. And, because the fields encircle the catheter, it can move up and down, not just side to side.

Nicole Seiberlich, an assistant professor of , has already developed the technology to see images inside the body 10 times faster than what's commercially available, without sacrificing the clarity for which MRI's are renown.

She and colleagues will continue to increase the speed, enabling a doctor to clearly see the landscape inside the heart in three dimensions in real time.

Mark Griswold, professor of radiology at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, had begun investigating the idea of a inside an MRI several years ago, but his lab dropped the effort when the device could not be properly controlled.

Jeff Duerk, dean of the Case School of Engineering and a professor of biomedical engineering who specializes in imaging, introduced Cavusoglu to Griswold, Seiberlich and others in their labs. When the others learned Cavusoglu had control algorithms and was looking for a place to use them, they restarted the effort.

To maintain a steady aim and contact with target tissues inside the , Cavusoglu's lab has already developed algorithms that automatically compensate for the contracting and expanding muscles and the pulsing blood.

"His algorithms come from the automated-car-driving world—they are predictive modeling—and our work comes from clinical medicine," Griswold said. "But because we got to know each other, we could see how we can work together."

In addition to the researchers named above, Jeff Ustin, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine and researcher and surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, is assisting with the project.

Explore further: NIH funds development of novel robots to assist people with disabilities, aid doctors

Related Stories

NIH funds development of novel robots to assist people with disabilities, aid doctors

October 24, 2013
Three projects have been awarded funding by the National Institutes of Health to develop innovative robots that work cooperatively with people and adapt to changing environments to improve human capabilities and enhance medical ...

Study: Heart catheter procedures facilitated by MRIs

September 10, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Heart catheter procedures guided by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are as safe as X-ray-guided procedures and take no more time, according to a pilot study conducted at the National Institutes of Health. ...

New MRI method fingerprints tissues and diseases

March 13, 2013
A new method of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) could routinely spot specific cancers, multiple sclerosis, heart disease and other maladies early, when they're most treatable, researchers at Case Western Reserve University ...

Simplifying heart surgery with stretchable electronics devices

November 15, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Researchers at the McCormick School of Engineering are part of a team that has used stretchable electronics to create a multipurpose medical catheter that can both monitor heart functions and perform corrections ...

Loyola testing new device for treating Atrial Fibrillation

September 15, 2011
Loyola University Medical Center is testing a high-tech catheter device that's intended to improve outcomes of patients treated for atrial fibrillation, the most common irregular heartbeat.

Recommended for you

Want to win at sports? Take a cue from these mighty mice

July 20, 2017
As student athletes hit training fields this summer to gain the competitive edge, a new study shows how the experiences of a tiny mouse can put them on the path to winning.

A sodium surprise: Engineers find unexpected result during cardiac research

July 20, 2017
Irregular heartbeat—or arrhythmia—can have sudden and often fatal consequences. A biomedical engineering team at Washington University in St. Louis examining molecular behavior in cardiac tissue recently made a surprising ...

Engineered liver tissue expands after transplant

July 19, 2017
Many diseases, including cirrhosis and hepatitis, can lead to liver failure. More than 17,000 Americans suffering from these diseases are now waiting for liver transplants, but significantly fewer livers are available.

Lunatic Fringe gene plays key role in the renewable brain

July 19, 2017
The discovery that the brain can generate new cells - about 700 new neurons each day - has triggered investigations to uncover how this process is regulated. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Jan and Dan Duncan ...

'Smart' robot technology could give stroke rehab a boost

July 19, 2017
Scientists say they have developed a "smart" robotic harness that might make it easier for people to learn to walk again after a stroke or spinal cord injury.

New animal models for hepatitis C could pave the way for a vaccine

July 19, 2017
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of hepatitis C—a disease that affects nearly 71 million people worldwide, causing cirrhosis and liver cancer if left untreated—it might be worth ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.