Surgical Robotics Technology

Will ARTHUR, The Rheumatoid Arthritis Ultrasound Robot be a Game Changer for Diagnosis?

arthritis ultrasound robot
KUKA@ROPCA (3) / KUKA: The LBR Med from KUKA offered exactly what the developers at ROPCA were looking for: certification in accordance with medical technology standards.

The partnership between the Danish medical company ROPCA ApS, and KUKA has propelled their newest medical robotics product “ARTHUR” which is already launched in hospitals. It is based on the lightweight robot LBR Med and supports early rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis. This gives way for an earlier treatment, which is essential for a good therapy outcome.

The Cobot LBR Med – a perfect fit

ROPCA ApS was founded by Thiusius Rajeeth Savarimuthu and Søren Andreas Just, as a spin-off from University of Southern Denmark (SDU) in Odense. They are proud to present ARTHUR, their arthritis-scanning robot. The system can autonomously perform ultrasound scans of patients’ hands. ROPCA started the evaluation process using local robotic companies at first, but quickly realized that they needed a medical certified robot. KUKA’s LBR Med is exactly what they were looking for. Since the LBR Med was already conform to medical standards, they could concentrate on their application’s regulatory. This drastically reduced the bureaucracy and accelerated the market entry.

The advantages of using the LBR Med as a robotic base

For Thiusius Rajeeth Savarimuthu, professor in healthcare robotics and artificial intelligence at the SDU, the advantages of using the LBR Med were obvious. The cobot LBR Med can do a soft landing right on the skin of the patient, out of the box with onboard, already available features of the controller and its medical grade operating system.

The LBR Med is a 7- degree of freedom robotic arm providing an extra degree of motion to be used to avoid singularities, collisions, or grasp around something. That reduces transitioning movements, when having a close interaction with patients. As the cobot and the human share their common “workspace”, the sensitive 7-joint LBR Med best fits the request for a robot to be around the patient. All in all, Savarimuthu concludes that “KUKA is the best choice, when you want to create medical products.”

rheumatoid arthritis robot
KUKA@ROPCA_(5) / KUKA: Bill Frederiksen, Senior Medical Officer in Rheumatology and Emergency Medicine at Svendborg Hospital, sees great potential in the implementation of ARTHUR in clinics.

The medical robot ARTHUR on its way to the market

Svendborg Hospital did a trial period with ARTHUR to test how patients would react getting their scans from an ultrasound scanning robot. The trial was seeped through with the usability of the integrated LBR Med: Everybody wanted to try the system, and everyone felt very comfortable with it. Their study found the interaction between the cobot-based system and patient to be very intuitive. Clear advantages for shorter waiting time, AI-based highly reliable diagnosis, hence faster start of a proper treatment convinced both physicians and patients.

AI supports early diagnosis

Bill Frederiksen, Senior Medical Officer in Rheumatology and Emergency Medicine at Svendborg Hospital, sees great opportunities for the implementation of ARTHUR at the hospital and the resulting optimized workflow. Especially because the number of patients is going up and the number of specialized doctors remains the same or is even declining.

The specialists will need help maintaining and obtaining an optimized workflow. The patients will be able to get the scan before seeing the specialists. The robotic-scanning-system captures high-quality images of all joints in the hand. This repetitive workflow is the ideal task for the integrated cobot LBR Med to automize. Artificial Intelligence supports during the diagnosis and ensures a stable quality of the ultrasound images taken by ARTHUR. In addition, with the automation of this examination, patients can be monitored much more frequently.

If every potential patient starts with a scan, they will be able to select the patient in need of urgent care, hence collecting more data earlier in order to secure a faster treatment. Furthermore, ARTHUR is consistent in scanning ultrasounds at a faster pace than a specialist, which accelerates the process. As Frederiksen simply puts it: “ARTHUR never gets tired and can scan 24/7.”

From X-rays to robotic scans

A patient, Flemming Poulsen, reflects on the process before ARTHUR’s victory tour into the everyday life of rheumatology. Before the creation of the rheumatic arthritis robotic system, it was X-rays and ordinary scans which took a lot of time to base a diagnosis on. For Poulsen, the medical robot means that they can diagnose much quicker which means the treatment can start sooner, and for him, having ARTHUR earlier in his treatment would have made a great difference: “The quicker you get a treatment, the less physical damages you get, and therefore, you can work longer.”

The ARTHUR-experience

Poulsen finds the robotic system’s scanning process easy to use and says it works as it should. Furthermore, it feels very trustworthy when the integrated cobot LBR Med approaches his hand for scanning, “It doesn’t hurt anyone,” as he says with a smile.

When you enter the room, the arthritis robot tells you to scan your medical ID, put gel on your hands and follow the automatically given directions. Then you place your hands on the scanner and ARTHUR tells you what to do. When the scans are done, they are sent directly to the doctors. For Poulsen, there’s no reason to be afraid of the process because the touch of the system always feels gentle. The integrated LBR Med is sensitive and precise in its movements.

LBR Med robot rheumatic arthritis

What’s next for ROPCA in the medical sector?

When it comes to the future of ROPCA, the co-founder is still a bit secretive, but what Savarimuthu wishes to disclose is that they are looking to expand and construct medical robots able to diagnose other joints as well as expanding worldwide. Bill Frederiksen sees the potential for a robotic helping hand in other areas of the medical sector as well. As for now, Frederiksen hopes that the implementation of ARTHUR will create a quicker and more efficient addition to the patient’s visit. For the patient, there’s absolutely no sweat, claiming that ARTHUR “is working extremely well”.

For Savarimuthu, the wish to keep creating solutions in the medical world is founded in a very personal pride: “I think it’s very inspiring to create solutions that will help people, and that’s also why I’m particularly proud of ARTHUR because it’s already out there. While we’re speaking, it’s scanning patients. That, in itself, is a great reward.” And so, the KUKA and ROPCA partnership keeps on focusing on creating more applications and solutions to supplement the medical sector.

kuka-medical-robots

KUKA

KUKA is a leading supplier of robotic components for medical devices. It is the only global robotics company with an entire business unit dedicated to medical robotics. With more than two decades of experience in medical robotics, our team offers services in development, sales, quality assurance and support, combining expertise in robotics and medical technology.

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