MRI Image
Researchers hope to enable physicians to perform robotic heart catheterization while the patient is inside a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine. (Credit: Case Western Reserve University)

A team of scientists received a four-year, $3.7 million NIH grant to attempt what they say would be a medical first: performing robotic heart catheterization while the patient is inside a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine.

A physician controlling a micro-robotic device would perform the procedure wearing a mixed-reality headset and the goal would be to achieve unparalleled surgical precision. In this case, that would mean for a procedure known as a left atrial appendage occlusion (LAAO), which is used for managing stroke risk in atrial fibrillation (AFib) patients.

By demonstrating the benefits of using AR-guided robotic surgery for this procedure, the researchers hope to increase its availability to AFib patients — especially those whose life expectancy is greater than 20 years.

The two big pieces of the work — the robotic catheter operating inside an MRI and the high-speed MRI imaging itself — provide significant challenges. Combining them required bringing together several experts from different disciplines.

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