Endoscopic fiber catheter makes cardiac procedures safer

A team of researchers from the USA demonstrates a unique study providing evidence that someday photoacoustic imaging may replace traditional techniques that need for potentially harmful radiation. The technique is based on optical fiber in a cardiac endoscopic fiber catheter that emits photoacoustic signals at the tip of the catheter; robotic vision guides the catheter.

To be more precise, the endoscopic fiber catheter has been tested only in a cardiac application and demonstrated successful details, however, the fiber optic technology can potentially be used to any procedure required a catheter, for instance, in-vitro fertilization, etc. The team applies optical fiber technology during a cardiac intervention, a procedure in which a fiber catheter is inserted into a vein or artery, then directed to the heart to diagnose and treat different heart diseases, for example, abnormal heartbeats.

Compared to endoscopic fiber catheter, conventional x-ray fluoroscopy used for the same purposes allows only demonstrating the shadow of where the catheter tip is, therefore, it doesn’t offer full data about depth. Moreover, traditional technology without optical fibers can be dangerous to both the patient and the doctor because of the requirement of ionizing radiation.

The operating principle of a new fiber catheter is based on “energy from a pulsed laser piped to an area in the body is absorbed by photo absorbers within the tissue, such as the protein that carries oxygen in the blood (hemoglobin), which results in a small temperature rise.” Herewith, the temperature increase leads to rapid heat expansion, creating a sound wave, which is received by an ultrasound fiber optic probe and reconstructed into an image.

Previous researches of photoacoustic imaging based on endoscopic fiber catheters mostly used outside of the body (for instance, dermatology procedures) and only several researchers have tried applying it with a laser beam light located internally. The purpose of the new fiber catheter for photoacoustic imaging include the reduction of radiation exposure by testing a new robotic system to automatically track the photoacoustic signal.

The team employs the paired optical fibers and endoscopic fiber catheter and performs cardiac catheterization on two pigs under anesthesia and applies fluoroscopy to initially map the catheter’s path on its way to the heart. Herewith, robotic technology is also utilized to hold the fiber optic probe and keep constant visualization via the photoacoustic signal, receiving image feedback every few millimeters.

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