What are those advantages?
von zur Mühlen: The examiner usually stands next to the radiation source with an X-ray shield. In my case, the protection weighs eight kilos – so I'm standing in the OR all day with eight kilos of weight, and that for decades; it's only a matter of time before you get orthopaedic problems. The robot logically eliminates the need to wear protection because the examiner is in a different room in this case.
In addition, the examiner is no longer standing directly next to the radiation source when using the robot. It is known that brain tumours, for example, can be triggered by years of X-ray radiation affecting the examiner. This risk is considerably reduced by the robot.
For the patients, there is the advantage that one can work very precisely with the robot. With a joystick, stents and wires can be moved forward or backward millimetre by millimetre, placed very precisely and controlled with X-rays – this results in an unbelievably high level of precision that can hardly be achieved with conventional, hand-guided cardiac catheter examinations.
What role does artificial intelligence play in these interventions?
von zur Mühlen: The advantages of artificial intelligence can be incorporated into these interventions in perspective. For example, the robot can remember which joystick movements a doctor triggers in order to successfully bring a wire or stent to its target in certain anatomies. These algorithms can be stored in a cloud and then applied to a comparable anatomy on the other side of the world. And maybe the examiner there does it a little bit better, creating an algorithm that learns for a specific anatomy how to achieve stent implantation fastest, best and safest.
How do you think robotics and its use in everyday clinical practice will develop?
von zur Mühlen: We will see in the next few years. The technology itself works very well and trouble-free, which is an important prerequisite. Of course, it still requires personnel and resources, which is always the case with a new technology at the beginning. We have to see how these two factors can be optimised in the near future so that this robotic examination can be used in the routine on patients in a time-saving and resource-saving way – then the advantages for patients and examiners will come to bear, and then this technology will also offer real added value for everyone involved.