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Team Develops Blood-Sampling Robot 

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A blood-sampling robot, able to perform as well or better than humans, has been developed by a team at Rutgers University. It was tested during the first human clinical trial of an automated blood drawing and testing device. 

Because the device can deliver quicker results, healthcare professionals would not have to spend so much time sampling blood. It would allow them to focus more on the treatment of patients within hospitals and other settings. 

The results were published in the journal Technology, and they were comparable to or exceeded clinical standards. The overall success rate for the 31 participants who had their blood drawn was 87%. 25 people had veins that were easier to access, and that success rate was 97%. 

Within the device is an ultrasound image-guided robot that draws blood from veins. One of the possible developments is a fully integrated device that includes a module to handle samples and a centrifuge-based blood analyzer. This could be used in ambulances, emergency rooms, clinics, doctors’ offices, hospitals, and bedsides. 

The most common clinical procedure, numbered at more than 1.4 billion performed daily in the United States, is Venipuncture. This is a process that involves inserting a needle into a vein to get a blood sample or perform IV therapy. However, previous studies have shown that clinicians fail in 27% of patients without visible veins, 40% of patients without palpable veins and 60% of emaciated patients.

With the repeated failure to start an IV line boost comes an increased risk of phlebitis, thrombosis, and infections. It could also require the targeting of large veins in the body or arteries, and this is riskier and more costly. Because of this, venipuncture is one of the leading causes of injury to patients and clinicians. Other problems associated with difficulty accessing veins are that it can increase procedure time by up to an hour, it requires more staff and the estimated costs are more than $4 billion a year in the United States. 

Josh Leipheimer is a biomedical engineering doctoral student in the Yarmush lab in the biomedical engineering department in the School of Engineering at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

“A device like ours could help clinicians get blood samples quickly, safely and reliably, preventing unnecessary complications and pain in patients from multiple needle insertion attempts,” Leipheimer said. 

The team hopes that the device can eventually be used in procedures such as IV catheterization, central venous access, dialysis and placing arterial lines. They will now work to refine the device and increase success rates in those patients with difficult veins to access. 

In order to improve its performance, data will be taken form this study and used to enhance artificial intelligence in the robot. 

The Rutgers co-authors include Max L. Balter and Alvin I. Chen, both graduates with doctorates; Enrique J. Pantin at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; Professor Kristen S. Labazzo; and principal investigator Martin L. Yarmush, the Paul and Mary Monroe Endowed Chair and Distinguished Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. The study also had contributions from a researcher at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. 

The newly developed device by the team at Rutgers is just another example of how robotics and artificial intelligence are overtaking the healthcare industry. These devices will greatly assist those working within healthcare, and they will make procedures and other forms of care much more successful.