A research team led by Dr. Ka-Wai Kwok of The University of Hong Kong (HKU)’s Department of Mechanical Engineering developed a robotic system for the control and tracking of cardiac catheters for electrophysiology (EP) under magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This multi-disciplinary work has been selected as the Best Experimental Paper 2022-2023 at the Seventh annual meeting of Society for Cardiac Robotics Navigation (SCRN) recently, in Washington D.C. in October.
Cardiac EP is an effective treatment for atrial fibrillation (ie. heart-rhythm irregularities), in which a long, steerable catheter is inserted into the heart chamber to conduct radio frequency ablation. MRI provides improved intraoperative monitoring of the ablation progress, however, real-time tracking of the catheter shape and position for efficient manipulation under MRI remains a huge obstacle to overcome.
Standard cardiac EP catheter driven by the MR-conditional robotic system. The catheter configuration can be tracked and controlled in real-time with MRI.
Dr. Kwok’s multi-disciplinary team of radiologists, cardiologists and engineers integrated a multicore fiber Bragg grating (FBG) fiber and custom MRI tracking coils with a standard cardiac catheter to achieve both shape and position tracking of the catheter’s bendable section. Incorporating machine-learning-based modeling methods, the three-dimensional (3-D) curvature of the cardiac catheters were reconstructed, facilitating real-time tracking under the MRI roadmap.
Through implementation of the shape tracking method onto an MRI-guided robotic platform, visualization of physiological changes of cardiac tissue and localization of the catheter tip in a 3-D roadmap are achieved, enabling intra-operative real-time feedback, monitoring and control of the ablation procedure. Ablation progress could be assessed and efficient ablation with less procedural time could be ensured from this method. These results demonstrate the feasibility and great potential of the system in real clinical applications. In view of this, the relevant publication co-authored with the team including Ziyang Dong, Xiaomei Wang, Ge Fang, Zhuoliang He, Justin Di-Lang Ho, Wai Lun Tang, Xiaochen. Xie, Liyuan Liang, Hing-Chiu Chang, Chi Keong Ching, with the title of “Shape Tracking and Feedback Control of Cardiac Catheter Using MRI-Guided Robotic Platform—Validation With Pulmonary Vein Isolation Simulator in MRI” featured in IEEE Transactions on Robotics (TRO)  was recognized by SCRN, which was founded by a group of electro-physiologists in 2015.
The society  believes in the future of robotics technologies and recognizes its under-re-presentation in daily clinical practice. In their annual meeting, physicians, engineers, scientists, allied professionals, and others involved in the field have a forum for sharing specific knowledge about the capabilities of various robotic techniques used in the treatment and diagnoses of arrhythmias. Each year the Best Papers Selection Committee of the SCRN reviews almost a hundred new papers focused on the use of Robotics in the medical field. A Best Clinical Paper and A Best Experimental Paper is chosen and winners get the opportunity to present their paper on behalf of their group at the following Annual SCRN Meeting.
 Society for Cardiac Robotics Navigation (SCRN): https://www.scrn-global.com/about
Award given to Dr. Ka-Wai Kwok (top left)’s multidisciplinary team, with his talk (top right) about the potential of MRI-guided robotic cardiac EP. The participants (bottom), mostly electro-physiologists, gathered in the event for sharing the most updated technologies in the treatment and diagnoses of arrhythmias.