|Samuel Benjamin Kesner
|Robert D. Howe
Compliant and flexible cardiac catheters provide direct access to the inside of the heart via the vascular system without requiring clinicians to stop the heart or open the chest. However, the fast motion of the intracardiac structures makes it difficult to modify and repair the cardiac tissue in a controlled and safe manner. In addition, rigid robotic tools for beating heart surgery require the chest to be opened and the heart exposed, making the procedures highly invasive. The novel robotic catheter system presented here enables minimally invasive repair on the fast-moving structures inside the heart, like the mitral valve annulus, without the invasiveness or risks of stopped heart procedures.
In this thesis, I investigate the development of 3D ultrasound-guided robotic catheters for beating heart surgery. First, the force and stiffness values of tissue structures in the left atrium are measured to develop design requirements for the system. This research shows that a catheter will experience contractile forces of 0.5 - 1.0 N and a mean tissue structure stiffness of approximately 0.1 N/mm while interacting with the mitral valve annulus. Next, this thesis presents the catheter system design, including force sensing, tissue resection, and ablation end effectors. In order to operate inside the beating heart, position and force control systems were developed to compensate for the catheter performance limitations of friction and deadzone backlash and evaluated with ex vivo and in vivo experiments. Through the addition of friction and deadzone compensation terms, the system is able to achieve position tracking with less than 1 mm RMS error and force tracking with 0.08 N RMS error under ultrasound image guidance. Finally, this thesis examines how the robotic catheter system enhances beating heart clinical procedures. Specifically, this system improves resection quality while reducing the forces experienced by the tissue by almost 80% and improves ablation performance by reducing contact resistance variations by 97% while applying a constant force on the moving tissue.