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Transbronchial biopsy catheter enhanced by a multisection continuum robot with follow-the-leader motion

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Current manual catheters for transbronchial biopsy in the lung lack a steering ability, which hampers a physician’s ability to reach nodules in the peripheral lung. The objective of this paper is to design and build a multisection robot with a follow-the-leader motion and compare the performance of the conventional catheter and our robotic catheter in the right main and right segmental lobar bronchus.


A three-section continuum robot with an outer diameter of 3 mm was developed. Each section includes one anchored wire and two driving wires made of stainless steel. Follow-the-leader control is implemented using a joystick for a physician to control the distal section of the robot, while the subsequent two sections follow the controlled distal section.


The robotic catheter deviated from the preplanned approach path by less than the manual catheter did (robotic: \(0.94 \pm 0.50\) mm and manual: \(1.86 \pm 0.74\) mm), with \(p < 0.01\). The average force applied to the wall, producing potential trauma to the wall, was less for the robotic catheter (\(0.13 \pm 0.11\) N) than for the manual catheter (\(0.94 \pm 0.30\) N), \(p<0.001\).


This study demonstrated an improvement in the maneuverability for the robotic catheter. In addition to a greater aptitude for reaching a peripheral area of the lung, these findings suggest that the designated target in a peripheral area can be reached with less trauma to the bronchi wall.

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This research was funded by Canon U.S.A., Inc.

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Correspondence to Nobuhiko Hata.

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KT and FM are employees of Canon U.S.A., Inc. NH has a financial interest in Harmonus, a company developing image guided therapy products. NH’s interests were reviewed and are managed by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Partners HealthCare in accordance with their conflict of interest policies.

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Dupourqué, L., Masaki, F., Colson, Y.L. et al. Transbronchial biopsy catheter enhanced by a multisection continuum robot with follow-the-leader motion. Int J CARS 14, 2021–2029 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11548-019-02017-w

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  • Surgical robotics
  • Continuum robots
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