Robotically assisted long bone biopsy under MRI: cadaver study results

  • Sunghwan Lim
  • Karun Sharma
  • Pan Li
  • Doru Petrisor
  • Stanley Fricke
  • Dan Stoianovici
  • Kevin ClearyEmail author
Original Article


Rationale and objectives

We have designed and constructed an MR-safe robot made entirely of nonmetallic components with pneumatic actuators and optical encoders. The robot was developed to enable bone biopsies to be performed under magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) guidance in pediatric patients. The purpose of this study was to show the feasibility of using the robot for biopsy of the femur and tibia in a cadaver leg. Our long-term goal is to eliminate radiation exposure during bone biopsy procedures and provide more timely and accurate diagnosis for children with bone cancers and bone infections.


The MR-safe robot was mounted on the MRI table. A cadaver leg was procured from an anatomy supply house and placed on the MRI table. All required hospital precautions for infection control were taken. A total of 10 biopsy targets were sampled using MRI guidance: five from the femur and five from the tibia. A handheld, commercially available battery-powered bone drill was used to facilitate drilling through the cortex. After the study, the leg was scanned with CT to better visualize and document the bone biopsy sites. Both the MRI and CT images were used to analyze the results.


All of the targets were successfully reached with an average targeting accuracy of 1.43 mm. A workflow analysis showed the average time for the first biopsy was 41 min including robot setup time and 22 min for each additional biopsy including the time for the repeat MRI scan used to confirm accurate targeting. The robot was shown to be MRI transparent, as no image quality degradation due to the use of the robot was detected.


The results showed the feasibility of using an MR-safe robotic system to assist the interventional radiologist in performing precision bone biopsy under MRI guidance. Future work will include developing an MR-safe drill, improving the mounting of the robot and fixation of the leg, and moving toward first in child clinical trials.


MRI Long bone biopsy MR-safe Robot Cadaver 



We would also like to thank the MRI technologists Lu Vargas and Shena Phillips for their help with the experimental studies, as well as Dr. Xiaoyan Song from infection control.


This research was funded by the NIH Grant R01CA172244, Pneumatic Robot for MRI-Guided Long Bone Biopsy. The MR-safe robot technology developments were supported in part by awards RC1EB010936 from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, and W81XWH0810221 from the Department of Defense. This research was also supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, HHSN268200900052C.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© CARS 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Robotics Laboratory, Brady Urological InstituteJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical InnovationChildren’s National Health SystemWashingtonUSA

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