Science Has Invented a Robot That Will Change Your Doctor Visits Forever

bloodtestSoonthorn Wongsaita/ShutterstockIf you’ve ever been pricked too many times for a shot before the clinician finally finds your vein, you already know the frustrations of a misplaced needle. But for deeper injections, the stakes are even higher.

Plastic tubes called catheters need to reach large veins to draw blood or deliver medications. Instead of pricking an arm, clinicians insert the needles in places like the neck or thigh. They don’t always find the veins the first time, though, and children’s are even harder to locate because their bodies are smaller than adults’. In fact, about 30 percent of those injections miss the mark, says Hugo Guterman, PhD, electrical and computer engineering professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. About 300 Americans die each year of infections and other complications from misplaced needles, he says.

To make deep injections more accurate, Dr. Guterman and his lab have developed the Fast Intelligent Needle Delivery (FIND) system.

finderVia, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical CenterThe system hooks a joystick up with an ultrasound to find the vein. Once the device finds its target, the needle goes in at the push of a button—way more accurate than doing it by hand. “From our experience, everyone who used FIND was able to find the vein and introduce the needle after five minutes of training,” says Dr. Guterman. “Therefore, we are very optimistic and expect that a well-trained operator will get an almost 100 percent success [rate].”

Not only is FIND safer, but it also saves time. Depending on a vein’s location, manual insertions can take anywhere from one to forty-five minutes, says Dr. Guterman. But FIND finishes in just a fraction of that time—setting the system up and inserting the needle takes just 20 to 45 seconds.

FIND still needs to go through clinical testing before seeking FDA approval. In the meantime, Dr. Guterman has teamed up with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center to create Xact Medical to continue research and development.

At first, FIND will probably be used mainly for difficult deep injections in kids and adults, like reaching the neck, says Dr. Guterman. Eventually, he hopes it will have even wider uses, such as biopsies. “It can be adapted to be used in every part of the body,” he says.

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