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Aug 10, 2013 09:03 AM EDT

Vanderbilt Researchers Create Robotic Device to Remove Blood Clots from the Brain

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A team of engineers and physicians at the Vanderbilt University have created a robotic system that uses 'steerable needles' to reach deep into the brain to suck away deadly blood clots, especially in hemorrhage cases. The system can remove about 92 percent of the clot.

According to HNGN, once a CT scan determines the exact location of the clot, a robotic arm is positioned outside the skull, and a tube is inserted into the brain to suck out the blood.

"I think this can save a lot of lives," said Robert J. Webster III, mechanical engineering professor who helped to innovate the needle. "There are a tremendous number of intracerebral hemorrhages and the number is certain to increase as the population ages."

The steerable needle could prevent 'collateral damage' during surgery.

"The trickiest part of the operation comes after you have removed a substantial amount of the clot. External pressure can cause the edges of the clot to partially collapse making it difficult to keep track of the clot's boundaries," said Webster.

The professor and his team had been working on the needle since the past four years. Originally, it was designed to remove pituitary tumors.

About one in 50 people are affected with intracerebral haemorrhage during his or her lifetime. It is fatal in about 40 percent of cases and survivors suffer from serious brain damage.

According to Futurity, neurosurgeons are skeptical about treating intracerebral haemorrhages because the surgeries do not always yield the best results. Usually, they prescribe drugs to help decrease the swelling around the clot and help the patient stabilize without surgery.

Surgeons would only be convinced in cases when the clots are small and lie on the brain's surface as they are easy to reach.

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