Would you allow this robot to draw your blood?

Nancy J. Delong

Drawing blood is actually one of the first things you learn in the medical school. However, many patients still get injured during these procedures. Veins are not always easy to see and pierce, which results in multiple tiny wounds and bruises. But what if we passed this role to robots? […]

Drawing blood is actually one of the first things you learn in the medical school. However, many patients still get injured during these procedures. Veins are not always easy to see and pierce, which results in multiple tiny wounds and bruises. But what if we passed this role to robots? Scientists from the Rutgers University have created a tabletop device, which can already draw blood very efficiently.

Why would we delegate this task to robots?

That’s a good question. Humans accomplish this task very well, but failures still occur in an estimated 20 % of procedures. Robots can be more efficient and more effective. They can achieve a greater degree of success, which would ultimately result in a better outcome for the patient. Also, if this simple task is left for robots, human health professionals can focus on more demanding parts of their job.

This tabletop robot combines artificial intelligence and near-infrared and ultrasound imaging to draw blood or insert catheters. Image credit: Martin Yarmush and Alvin Chen, Rutgers University.

How Rutgers’ robot draw blood?

This robot is a tabletop device, which uses artificial intelligence, motion tracking, near-infrared and ultrasound imaging to detect blood vessels. This device is able to differentiate between bigger and smaller vessels, opting for the ideal spot to enter the needle. Then this robot can accurately steer needles and into tiny blood vessels with minimal supervision.

But this robot can do much more than just draw blood. It can also introduce catheters and, potentially, inject medicine.

Has it been tested?

Yes, although much more testing is still needed to deploy this robot in a bigger number of hospitals. Martin L. Yarmush, senior author of the study, said: “Using volunteers, models and animals, our team showed that the device can accurately pinpoint blood vessels, improving success rates and procedure times compared with expert health care professionals, especially with difficult to access blood vessels”.

What are the next steps?

As usual, more research is needed. Scientists want to test this device with more different people, especially those who have veins that are difficult to access. Furthermore, they want to improve the robot and test its abilities in rodents. This could be extremely helpful in drug testing in animals in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries.

Children, elderly, people with various conditions and even some healthy adult people sometimes have difficult blood vessels. In some cases at least five attempts are needed to draw blood or introduce a catheter, leading to delays in treatment. Hopefully this robot could make this entire process easier for patients at the same time freeing up some time of doctors to complete more important tasks.

 

Source: Rutgers University


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