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Robotic palpation and mechanical property characterization for abnormal tissue localization

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Palpation is an intuitive examination procedure in which the kinesthetic and tactile sensations of the physician are used. Although it has been widely used to detect and localize diseased tissues in many clinical fields, the procedure is subjective and dependent on the experience of the individual physician. Palpation results and biomechanics-based mechanical property characterization are possible solutions that can enable the acquisition of objective and quantitative information on abnormal tissue localization during diagnosis and surgery. This paper presents an integrated approach for robotic palpation combined with biomechanical soft tissue characterization. In particular, we propose a new palpation method that is inspired by the actual finger motions that occur during palpation procedures. To validate the proposed method, robotic palpation experiments on silicone soft tissue phantoms with embedded hard inclusions were performed and the force responses of the phantoms were measured using a robotic palpation system. Furthermore, we carried out a numerical analysis, simulating the experiments and estimating the objective and quantitative properties of the tissues. The results indicate that the proposed approach can differentiate diseased tissue from normal tissue and can characterize the mechanical information of diseased tissue, which means that this method can be applied as a means of abnormality localization to diagnose prostate cancers.

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This work was supported in part by Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (2011-0026011).

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Correspondence to Jung Kim.

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Ahn, B., Kim, Y., Oh, C.K. et al. Robotic palpation and mechanical property characterization for abnormal tissue localization. Med Biol Eng Comput 50, 961–971 (2012).

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