Enhancing Medical Diagnosis through Haptically-Enabled Robotic Ultrasound

Z. Najdovski, S. Nahavandi
Deakin University,

Keywords: Haptics, Robotics, Tele-medicine, Ultrasound


Diagnostic imaging provides healthcare practitioners with crucial information about a patient’s health. Ultrasound, x-ray and magnetic resonance imaging services are vital to delivering high quality healthcare. With an aging population, the demand for these services has surged. Sonographers are in high demand throughout regional and remote areas of the world. Hospitals or smaller medical facilities are unable to provide round the clock sonography support to their diagnostic practitioners, often resulting in costly road or air ambulance travel to a major regional centre. The presented HaptiScan remote robotic ultrasound system is capable of being controlled over the internet. The HaptiScan system is portable and can be setup within a medical clinic or mobile medical station such as a ship, aircraft or ambulance. The patient can be placed under the robot and remotely scanned and monitored to reduce the risk of flying in and out or long distance transport. With seven levels of safety, the operator is able to remotely touch and feel the patient through haptic feedback, and safely perform the ultrasound procedure. Haptic (force) feedback is a vital modality for this robotic application as during an ultrasound procedure, sonographers rely on force and visual feedback to successfully scan a patient. The operator can feel what the robot touches or grasps through a human-machine interface, providing a much more intuitive experience and significantly reducing the operator’s cognitive load. Stereovision improves operator situational awareness by giving the operator depth perception, which also contributes to the accuracy and efficiency of manipulation tasks. Additionally, the long-distance control that robots can provide a human operator is very advantageous within environments that have limited access, are dangerous or are remote. From the time of diagnosis, a decision can be made whether to transport a patient. If required for surgery, the diagnosis is already complete, allowing for pre-operation planning for domains including military, non-military and remote/regional. In this work, the mathematical modelling of the robotic manipulator and haptic interface are presented. The control methodologies used for teleoperation are also presented and validated through simulation. The system has been successfully demonstrated using data links to represent network latency existing between Melbourne and several regional and rural cities within Australia. Testing over the 4G and 5G network has demonstrated the proven technology can successfully scale to allow surgeons and sonographers to control the system at even greater distances.