Rutgers robot draws blood better than humans in first trials

Rutgers robot draws blood better than humans

A prototype of the automated blood drawing and testing device. Credit: Unnati Chauhan, Rutgers University

The first human clinical trials of a blood sampling and testing robot promised benefits for both patients and healthcare workers, reported Rutgers University this week.

The trials found that an automated blood-drawing device developed over the past six years by a Rutgers-led team performed as well or better than human clinicians.

The device provides quick results and would allow healthcare professionals to spend more time treating patients in hospitals and other settings, said the researchers.

The results, published in the journal Technology, were comparable to or exceeded clinical standards, with an overall success rate of 87% for the 31 participants whose blood was drawn. For the 25 people whose veins were easy to access, the success rate was 97%.

Integrated blood analyzer

The device includes an ultrasound image-guided robot that draws blood from veins, said Rutgers. A integrated module that handles samples and a centrifuge-based blood analyzer, could be used at bedsides and in ambulances, emergency rooms, clinics, doctors’ offices, and hospitals.

Venipuncture, which involves inserting a needle into a vein to get a blood sample or perform intravenous (IV) therapy, is the world’s most common clinical procedure, with more than 1.4 billion performed yearly in the U.S. But clinicians fail in 27% of patients without visible veins, 40% of patients without palpable veins, and 60% of emaciated patients, according to previous studies.

Repeated failures to start an IV line boost the likelihood of phlebitis, thrombosis, and infections, and they may require targeting large veins in the body or arteries – at much greater cost and risk. As a result, venipuncture is among the leading causes of injury to patients and clinicians, said the New Jersey-based university.

Moreover, problems with accessing veins can increase procedure time by up to an hour, requires more staff, and costs more than $4 billion a year in the U.S, according to estimates.

Rutgers blood testing device

Schematic of blood testing device. Source: Rutgers University

Avoiding future complications

“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,” stated lead author Josh Leipheimer, a biomedical engineering doctoral student in the Yarmush lab in the biomedical engineering department in the School of Engineering at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.

In the future, the device could be used in such procedures as IV catheterization, central venous access, dialysis, and placing arterial lines, said Rutgers. Next steps include refining the device to improve success rates in patients with difficult veins to access. Data from this study will be used to enhance artificial intelligence in the healthcare robot to improve its performance.

Rutgers co-authors include Max L. Balter and Alvin I. Chen, who both graduated with doctorates; Enrique J. Pantin at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; Prof. 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 and scientific advisor to VascuLogic, which is commercializing technology. A researcher at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital also contributed to the study.

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