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James van der Pool, from Tomorrow's World
"It's a bit like a sewing machine"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 7 March, 2001, 00:28 GMT
Robot injection tested on TV
Finding a vein for an injection can be problematic
A device to ensure that every injection finds its target is to be tested on a human for the first time on BBC television's Tomorrow's World on Wednesday.

Locating a vein can be difficult, and there is also a risk that the needle will overshoot once it has been inserted under the skin.

My device could help doctors and nurses take blood samples with less pain and trauma to the patient

Alex Zivanovic, Imperial College
Health workers cannot be sure that they have hit the spot until the needle is in.

Inevitably, this leads on occasions to a certain amount of painful probing with patients having to endure the discomfort of a needle being pushed in and out several times.

British inventor Alex Zivanovic, from the Mechatronics in Medicine Laboratory at Imperial College, London, has developed a high-tech device that could mean that this problem is soon a thing of the past.

Mr Zivanovic has spent four years developing a syringe-wielding robotic nurse that uses technology to locate the vein.


The robot finds the patient's vein by gently prodding parts of the arm and by recording the forces of the rebounding tissue.

The scientists say the robot can tell what lies underneath the skin to an accuracy of one millimetre.

Alex Zivanovic
Alex Zivanovic invented the device
Muscle is hard, fat is soft and veins feel similar to an under-inflated balloon.

Once it has found the veins, the robot displays their location on a screen.

It suggests which is the most appropriate place to put the needle in, but it is down to its operator to make the final decision.

As the needle enters the patient's skin, the robot uses strain gauges to monitor whether it is causing any injury.

Broken wall

If the wall of the vein is broken, the robot immediately stops work.

The inventor has so far only tested his robot on a rubber arm that mimics the layering of skin and even contains artificial blood.

But on the Tomorrow's World programme, he will test the device on a human volunteer - himself - for the first time.

Mr Zivanovic told BBC News Online: "I hope that in the long term, my device could help doctors and nurses take blood samples with less pain and trauma to the patient.

"Not being able to find a vein is quite a common problem. Health workers have to try several times, and this can make some patients very nervous about receiving future injections."

The technique could also avoid complications in patients, such as diabetics, who require regular injections.

Veins that are repeatedly jabbed can become inflamed or close up.

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See also:

29 Jan 01 | Health
Wonder needle cuts accident rate
13 Oct 00 | Health
Long needles 'cut injection pain'
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