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Daily Bulletin

Exploring Future Possible Uses For Robotics in Interventional Radiology

Monday, Nov. 27, 2023

By Melissa Silverberg

Opportunities to use robotic-assisted devices in interventional radiology are expanding rapidly, including in cardiac and neurovascular interventions.

An educational exhibit, "The Rise of Robotics in Interventional Radiology," presented by Shen Ning, MD/PhD candidate at Boston University School of Medicine, explores the emerging trend and possible future of robotics in the field of medical and engineering technology.

Ning pursued a Fullbright scholarship in Zurich, which was her first exposure to the concept of robotics in interventional radiology where she worked with Nanoflex Robotics, a company that developed a robotic system that inserts specially made guidewires and catheters deep into the brain as part of interventional stroke treatment.


Other robotic systems have been approved in the past few decades including the Sensei X robotic catheter system, which is used in cardiac mapping, ablative procedures, and complex cardiac arrhythmia procedures. The Epione® robot, which is used to treat patients with lung and liver tumors by defining the tumor margin and ablating it, has also been developed and approved.

Robotic-assisted interventional radiology devices can simplify and shorten procedure time and reduce radiation exposure for physicians who can use the robotic system without standing directly next to the patient. They can also use algorithms and AI models to precisely determine the best positioning for the device, Ning said.

"Robotics in interventional radiology is going to be a key tool. Much like how robotics have changed the face of surgery, I can imagine robotics in IR suites of the future," Ning said. "I'm excited to look down the line in 50 years and see what kind of progress has happened in this field."

Telerobotics Can Help In Areas With Radiology Shortages

Ning's exhibit also explores the developing field of telerobotics, where the robotic device is controlled by a physician offsite. That could mean bringing IR to places that are facing a radiologist shortage. For stroke patients, this could also mean a future where they are treated at their local hospital by a radiologist working from a larger, more specialized center without having to be transferred, saving time and brain tissue.

The field of telerobotics is still newly emerging and not many people are trained in it or are aware of the potential.

Developers are still working on ensuring that the robotic devices are as sensitive as they need to be to receiving tactile sensory feedback that an interventional radiologist would actually get if they were performing a procedure themselves and feeling the catheter moving within a patient, for example.

"This is very much a developing field," Ning said. "A few systems have been approved, but there's a lot more coming. We need more research and more technology development."

She said future robots need to be intuitive, cost-effective and should demonstrate better patient outcomes than the current standard of medical practice to reach broad clinical adoption.

Access the education exhibit, "The Rise of Robotics in Interventional Radiology," (MKEE21) on demand at