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Image of the Week: A steerable needle for treating blood clots in the brain


The lemon yellows and vibrant reds in this image are eye-catching, but it's the little black 'whisker' of a line that steals the show - it's a steerable needle that can be used to treat blood clots. The egg-like pools of red and yellow in this image are a fake blood clot made from gelatin.

This agile little tool is described in an article accepted for publication in the journal IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering. Vanderbilt researchers Robert J. Webster III, PhD,  and Kyle Weaver, PhD, lead a team of engineers and physicians in developing a surgical system that utilizes steerable needles to penetrate the brain with minimal damage and suction away blood clots. As noted in the press release brain clots are a leading cause of death, disability:

The odds of a person getting an intracerebral hemorrhage are one in 50 over his or her lifetime. When it does occur, 40 percent of the individuals die within a month. Many of the survivors have serious brain damage.

“When I was in college, my dad had a brain hemorrhage,” said Webster. “Fortunately, he was one of the lucky few who survived and recovered fully. I’m glad I didn’t know how high his odds of death or severe brain damage were at the time, or else I would have been even more scared than I already was.”

Photo by Joe Howell / Vanderbilt

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