Ultrasonic Needle Tracking with a Fibre-Optic Ultrasound Transmitter for Guidance of Minimally Invasive Fetal Surgery
Ultrasound imaging is widely used for guiding minimally invasive procedures, including fetal surgery. Visualisation of medical devices such as medical needles is critically important and it remains challenging in many clinical contexts. During in-plane insertions, a needle can have poor visibility at steep insertion angles and at large insertion depths. During out-of-plane insertions, the needle tip can have a similar ultrasonic appearance to the needle shaft when it intersects with the ultrasound imaging plane. When the needle tip is not accurately identified, it can damage critical structures, with potentially severe consequences, including loss of pregnancy. In this paper, we present a tracking system to directly visualise the needle tip with an ultrasonic beacon. The waves transmitted by the beacon were received by an external ultrasound imaging probe. Pairs of co-registered images were acquired in rapid succession with this probe: a photoacoustic image obtained with the system in receive-only mode, and a conventional B-mode ultrasound image. The beacon comprised a custom elastomeric nanocomposite coating at the distal end of an optical fibre, which was positioned within the lumen of a commercial 22 gauge needle. Delivery of pulsed light to the coating resulted in the photoacoustic generation of ultrasonic waves. The measured tracking accuracies in water in the axial and lateral dimensions were \(0.39 \pm 0.19\) mm and \(1.85 \pm 0.29\) mm, respectively. To obtain a preliminary indication of the clinical potential of this ultrasonic needle tracking system, needle insertions were performed in an in vivo fetal sheep model. The results demonstrate that ultrasonic needle tracking with a fibre-optic transmitter is feasible in a clinically realistic fetal surgery environment, and that it could be useful to guide minimally invasive procedures by providing accurate visualisation of the medical device tip.
This work was supported by an Innovative Engineering for Health award by the Wellcome Trust (No. WT101957) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) (No. NS/A000027/1), by a Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC-2012-StG, Proposal No. 310970 MOPHIM), and by an EPSRC First Grant (No. EP/J010952/1). A.L.D. is supported by the UCL/UCLH NIHR Comprehensive Biomedical Research Centre. The authors are grateful for the technical support provided by Dr. Richard J. Colchester, Dr. Erwin J. Alles and Dr. Sandy Mosse from UCL.
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