A medical robotic system uses an external magnetic field to precisely and remotely control guidewires through tiny and tortuous blood vessels. The system, following further tests and commercialization, could minimize the exposure of physicians to x-ray radiation while looking for and treating narrowed or blocked blood vessels.

The system involves remotely controlling a magnetically steerable microrobotic guidewire by applying a controllable external magnetic field. The field is generated by an electromagnetic actuation system made of eight electromagnets arranged in a hemispherical configuration under a surgical bed.

The patient is meant to be placed on the bed, with the guidewire inserted into an artery and guided remotely by changing the magnetic field. The guidewire is made of a biocompatible silicone tube that can move through blood vessels with very little surface friction. The tip of the microrobotic tube encapsulates a neodymium-iron-boron permanent magnet and hard-magnetic composites for magnetic steering.

The researchers are planning to further modify the system so that it can also target vessels in the nervous system and lungs.