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Innovations in photonics and MEMS enable in body guidance without radiation.

New technologies are being developed that can largely eliminate the need for harmful x-ray radiation during minimally invasive procedures:

  • Optical tracking of instruments is combined with pre-operative scans and augmented reality, to show the surgeon the position of his instruments with respect to internal physiology; 

  • Electromagnetic and acoustic sensors show the position of the tip of an instrument with respect to a pre-operative scan or directly in a live ultrasound image; 

  • Breakthrough innovations in photonics are enabling optical shape sensing techniques that can reconstruct the shape of a catheter over its entire length; 

  • MEMS ultrasound technology will enable segmented large area body conformal ultrasound transducers that are capable of imaging large parts of the body without the need for a sonographer, to guide surgeons in a multitude of minimally invasive interventions.

Societal impact

The move from open surgery to minimally invasive interventions has led to a drastic reduction in hospitalization and post-surgical complications. As such it is one of the most effective instruments to reduce the cost of healthcare. Not surprisingly, minimally invasive surgery is now being used in almost every branch of surgery, and as a result the number of minimally invasive interventions has grown explosively over the past two decades. 
Moving from open to minimal invasive surgery, image guidance is needed. X-ray imaging was a first logical step, but apart from the fact that it requires bulky equipment that is often obstructing the surgeon, it poses a considerable health risk to the patient and especially to the surgeon, while it only provides a 2D representation of the 3D physiology and 3D shape of the devices.
Innovative radiation free 3D device guidance will allow for a natural and easy navigation in the body resulting in more precise and successful interventions while minimizing radiation concerns. It will further reduce the need for open surgery and is therefore a significant driver in the reduction of healthcare cost.  


Relevance for the Electronic Components and Systems (ECS) industry

Europe has a leading position in Cathlab infrastructures with a world market share in excess of 76%. Next to this, it is a prominent producer of X-ray diagnostic equipment. To consolidate and expand this important market position, it is of paramount importance for Europe to be a forefront innovator in non-ionizing guidance and diagnostic imaging technologies. 
These new technologies cover almost every aspect of the ECS value chain ranging MEMS fabrication and photonics to massive edge computing and AI for image reconstruction. 
New non-ionizing diagnostic imaging modalities will additionally find their way from the clinical setting to general practitioners and other professional users (see also “Personal Ultrasound”). 


Enabling technology platforms

Although nearly all technologies covered by the ECS value chain will be essential in the reduction or even elimination of X-ray for guidance and to a certain extend for diagnostics. However, the main technology platforms that are driving this innovation are:

  • Integrated photonics;

  • MEMS ultrasound;

  • Flexible and conformal electronics;

  • Low power edge computing and AI;

  • Data integration into clinical systems.

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