On the reproducibility of expert-operated and robotic ultrasound acquisitions
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We present the evaluation of the reproducibility of measurements performed using robotic ultrasound imaging in comparison with expert-operated sonography. Robotic imaging for interventional procedures may be a valuable contribution, but requires reproducibility for its acceptance in clinical routine. We study this by comparing repeated measurements based on robotic and expert-operated ultrasound imaging.
Robotic ultrasound acquisition is performed in three steps under user guidance: First, the patient is observed using a 3D camera on the robot end effector, and the user selects the region of interest. This allows for automatic planning of the robot trajectory. Next, the robot executes a sweeping motion following the planned trajectory, during which the ultrasound images and tracking data are recorded. As the robot is compliant, deviations from the path are possible, for instance due to patient motion. Finally, the ultrasound slices are compounded to create a volume. Repeated acquisitions can be performed automatically by comparing the previous and current patient surface.
After repeated image acquisitions, the measurements based on acquisitions performed by the robotic system and expert are compared. Within our case series, the expert measured the anterior–posterior, longitudinal, transversal lengths of both of the left and right thyroid lobes on each of the 4 healthy volunteers 3 times, providing 72 measurements. Subsequently, the same procedure was performed using the robotic system resulting in a cumulative total of 144 clinically relevant measurements. Our results clearly indicated that robotic ultrasound enables more repeatable measurements.
A robotic ultrasound platform leads to more reproducible data, which is of crucial importance for planning and executing interventions.
KeywordsUltrasound acquisition Robotic ultrasound Autonomous acquisition Reproducibility Thyroid
The authors wish to thank Wolfgang Wein and his team (ImFusion GmbH, Munich, Germany) for their support and opportunity to use the ImFusion framework.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This article does contain a study with human participants and was approved by the JHU Homewood Institutional Review Board under the number HIRB00004673. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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