Section: New Results

Medical Robotics

Non-rigid Target Tracking in Ultrasound Images

Participants : Lucas Royer, Alexandre Krupa.

We pursued our work concerning the development of a real-time approach that allows tracking deformable soft tissue structures in 3D ultrasound sequences. In previous work we proposed a method which consists in estimating the target deformation by combining robust dense motion estimation and mechanical model simulation. This year we improved the robustness of our method to several image artefacts as the presence of large shadows, local illumination changes and image occlusions that occur due to the modification of the imaging gain and re-orientation of the ultrasound beam induced by probe motion. To achieve this, we proposed a new dissimilarity criterion between the current and reference images based on the Sum of Conditional Variance (SCV). Our new criterion, that we named Sum of Confident Conditional Variance (SCCV), consists in discriminating unconfident voxels thanks to the use of a pixel-wise quality measurement of the ultrasound images. This improved approach was experimentally validated on organic soft tissues and the obtained results were published in [40].

Optimization of Ultrasound Image Quality by Visual Servoing

Participants : Pierre Chatelain, Alexandre Krupa.

This study is realized in collaboration with Prof. Nassir Navab from the Technical University of Munich (TUM).

In previous work, we have developed ultrasound-based visual servoing methods to fulfill various tasks, such as compensating for physiological motion, maintaining the visibility of an anatomic target during ultrasound probe teleoperation, or tracking a surgical instrument. However, due to the specific nature of ultrasound images, guaranteeing a good image quality during the procedure remains a challenge. Therefore we pursued our study on the use of ultrasound confidence maps as a new modality for automatically positioning an ultrasound probe in order to improve the image quality. In addition to our visual servoing approach that optimizes the global quality of the image, this year we proposed a control fusion to optimize the acoustic window for a specific anatomical target which is tracked in the ultrasound images [50]. Recently, we extended our confidence-driven control to the out-of-plane motion of a 3D ultrasound probe and experimentally validated it on a human volunteer at TUM [14].

Visual Servoing using Shearlet Transform

Participants : Lesley-Ann Duflot, Alexandre Krupa.

In collaboration with the Femto-ST lab in Besançon, we proposed in a first-hand a solution to reduce the acquisition time of an Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) 3D imaging scanner. This latter consists in sweeping a laser beam on a tissue sample of interest. To increase the frame rate of this imaging device we proposed to apply an optimal trajectory to the laser that covers entirely the image but without performing all the OCT measurements. The reconstruction of the missing data is then achieved by applying an updated Fast Iterative Soft-Thresholding Algorithm (FISTA) on a sparse representation of the image that is based on the shearlet transform [57]. In a second hand, we studied the feasibility of using the subsampled shearlet coefficients of an ultrasound image as the visual features of an image-based visual servoing. In a preliminary study we estimated numerically the interaction matrix that links the variation of the shearlet coarsest coefficients to the 6 degrees of freedom motion of the ultrasound probe and uses it in the visual servoing framework. The results obtained in cases of automatic probe positioning and phantom motion compensation demonstrated the efficiency of the shearlet-based features in terms of accuracy, repeatability, robustness and convergence behavior [59]. Then we proposed to consider a more efficient and adequate shearlet implementation that consists in a non-subsampled representation of the image. In this case the shearlet coefficients represent different images, focused on different singularities of the initial image, and we consider directly their pixel intensity values in the visual feature vector similarly to the photometry-based visual servoing approach. The modeling of the interaction matrix was analytically derived and experimental results demonstrated the reliability of the new method and its robustness to speckle noise [58].

3D Steering of Flexible Needle by Ultrasound Visual Servoing

Participants : Jason Chevrie, Marie Babel, Alexandre Krupa.

The objective of this work is to provide robotic assistance during needle insertion procedures such as biopsy or ablation of localized tumor. In the past we only considered the control of the insertion and needle rotation along and around its main axis by the use of a duty-cycling control strategy. This latter consists in adapting online from visual feedback the orientation of a beveled-tip flexible needle during its insertion for controlling the needle curvature in 3D space that is induced by asymmetrical forces exerted on the bevel. However, such strategy limits the workspace of the needle tip. Therefore we proposed a new control method for flexible needle steering that combines direct base manipulation and needle tip based control. The direct base manipulation control is generated thanks to the use of a 3D model of a flexible beveled tip needle that gives the adequate motion of the needle base to obtain a given motion of the needle tip. This 3D model is based on virtual springs that characterize the needle mechanical interaction with soft tissue and is adapted online from visual tracking of the needle shape. From this model, a measure of the controllability of the needle tip degrees of freedom was proposed in order to mix the control between the direct base manipulation and the duty cycling technique [51]. Preliminary results of an automatic needle tip positioning in a translucent gelatine phantom, observed by 2 orthogonal cameras, demonstrated the feasibility of the combination between direct base manipulation and needle tip control for reaching a desired target. This hybrid control allows better targeting capabilities in terms of larger needle workspace and reduced needle bending. In order to predict the trajectory of a needle during insertion under lateral motion of the tissue, we also improved our 3D model of the flexible needle to take into account the effect of the motion of the tissues on the needle shape. This was achieved thanks to the design of an algorithm based on an unscented Kalman filter that estimates the tissue motion. Results obtained from several needle insertions in a moving soft tissue phantom showed that our model gives good performance in terms of needle trajectory prediction. This model was also considered in a closed-loop control approach to allow automatic reaching of a target in case of tissue lateral displacement [52]. Future work will address the consideration of 3D ultrasound as visual feedback.

Enhancement of Ultrasound Elastography by Visual Servoing and Force Control

Participants : Pedro Alfonso Patlan Rosales, Alexandre Krupa.

Elastography imaging is performed by applying continuous stress variation on soft tissues in order to estimate a strain map of the observed tissues. It is obtained by estimating, from the RF (radio-frequency) signal along each scan line of the probe transducer, the echo time delays between pre- and post-compressed tissue. Usually, this continuous stress variation is performed manually by the user who manipulates the US probe and it results therefore in an user-dependent quality of the elastography image. To improve the ultrasound elastography imaging and provide quantitative measurement, we developed an assistant robotic palpation system that automatically moves a 2D ultrasound probe for optimizing ultrasound elastography [70]. The main originality of this work is the use of the elastography modality directly as input of the robot controller. Force measures are also considered in the probe control in order to automatically induce soft tissue deformation needed for real-time elastography imaging process.