Medical Breakthroughs: Robot Biopsy

BREAKTHROUGH: Researchers from Johns Hopkins Medical Institute have developed an innovative process that combines robotic instruments and computed tomography (CT) scanners to perform surgical biopsies. During a John Hopkins study, researchers were able to use a robot arm attached to a CT scanner to successfully position and insert a needle into the tumors of 10 patients. The CT images guided and helped angle the robot arm, which was designed by engineers at Johns Hopkins. The biopsy of the tumors, located in the lungs, liver, and kidneys of the 10 patients yielded high-quality results.

BENEFITS: With this new technique, the traditional methods of surgical incision biopsy can be eliminated. Stephen Solomon, M.D., an assistant professor of radiology and urology at Johns Hopkins says, "One of the issues with a manual biopsy is that the physician has to use his brain to find the right angle to hit the target."

Currently, when a physician performs an open surgical biopsy, the incision has to be large enough to allow room for the hands of the physician, causing pain to the patient and a longer recovery time. The physician may also need to remove and reinsert the biopsy needle several times in order to adjust for the right angle to reach the tumor.

Benefits of the new robot biopsy include:

  • No general anesthesia
  • Less risk, pain, and recovery time
  • Less expensive than surgery
  • Multiple needle sticks are avoided
  • Reduced CT radiation exposure for physician

GROWING TECHNOLOGY: At other institutions, researchers are designing and manufacturing other adaptations of the robotic tool. Dr. Solomon believes there are many significant advantages to using robots. However, no matter how promising the new technology may be, there are still physicians who feel better using the current open surgery biopsy.


Gary Stephenson
John Hopkins University School of Medicine
550 North Broadway, Suite 1100
Baltimore, MD 21205
(410) 955-5384

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