Heart-helping robot improves doctors' precision

IDG News Service | Jul 29, 2014

Of the roughly 3 million cardiac catheterizations performed annually an increasing number are using technology that aims to benefit doctors and patients. Follow reporter Nick Barber on Twitter @nickjb

Of the roughly 3 million cardiac catheterizations performed annually an increasing number are using technology that aims to benefit doctors and patients.

Cardiac cathetizartion involves threading a wire up patients femoral arteries and into their hearts. The catheter could deliver a stent or a balloon for an angioplasty, both of which are designed to open blocked arteries and avert potentially deadly heart conditions.

I spoke with Dr. Ryan Madder of Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He's done about 20 procedures using Corpath, a machine designed to give robotic aid cath lab doctors.

He outlined three benefits of the technology. Since catheter procedures are done with live images of the patient's heart, the physicians are exposed to radiation. The Corpath machine has a lead lined cockpit to alleviate this problem. It also means that the physicians don't have to wear lead vests which can contribute to orthopedic problems. The benefit to patients is that measurements can be millimeter precise, which means that a costly, second stent might not be needed.

The system is not without it's drawbacks though. The guide catheter and coronary wire can't be moved independently of each other. The coronary wire is what delivers the stent or balloon while the guide catheter acts as a conduit.
While he said this doesn't present a danger to the patient, it would be a significant improvement to have that capability.

Another drawback is cost. Each machine is in the range of 500 thousand dollars, but Dr. Madder said that Spectrum Health is planning to purchase another machine soon. The Corpath system is in use at about 20 sites across the US and has performed procedures on about 600 patients. It was approved for use by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2013.

In Waltham Massachusetts, Nick Barber, IDG News Service.