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Tele-Operated Robot For Performing Ultrasounds in Development

This robot is designed to conduct prenatal ultrasound exams on pregnant women in remote locations. (Photo credit: Waseda University.)
This robot from Japan is designed to conduct prenatal ultrasound exams on pregnant women in remote locations. (Photo credit: Waseda University.)

A robot designed to give an ultrasound exam to a pregnant woman is being developed at Waseda University in Japan. Such a system has never been developed in the past due to safety concerns regarding the weight of the equipment. But this system, made by Professor Hiroyasu Iwata has features a structure that supports the weight of the machine, thus reducing the potential burden on a patient’s body.

“This research was motivated by my desire to shorten the response time for emergency prenatal care in the Tokyo metropolitan area,” said Dr Iwata in a statement. “Eventually, I want to use this technology for at-home and remote area medical examinations.”

“Our central challenge is to prove its applicability to a real pregnant woman whose stomach is growing larger and larger,” he adds. Last November, in an experiment involving two expecting mothers, “we confirmed the robot’s ability to follow the shape of their abdomens and obtain ultrasound echo images. The head, hands and feet of each fetus were clearly visible, which increases our motivation to make this technology a practical reality.”

Dr Iwata says he hopes to have a practicing physician test the robotic device in an obstetrics clinic and get feedback from patients over a one to two month period.

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