Researchers from Shanghai-based Tongji University announced they had invented an automatic blood sampler that can match or outperform healthcare professionals.
The desktop machine, which includes near-infrared and ultrasound image-guided devices, can locate veins in patients quickly and safely, avoiding repeated needle insertion attempts on patients.
Venipuncture, involving inserting a needle into a vein to extract a blood sample or inject medication, is the world's most common clinical procedure. But even medical experts may fail on patients without visible veins.
Repeated venipuncture failures for some patients, such as the obese, the elderly and those with hemorrhagic shock, is rather painful, time-consuming and may boost the likelihood of vein inflammation and person-to-person infection.
In the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic, many medical personnel have had difficulty finding veins in patients when wearing heavy protective suits.
"The machine we created could help solve these problems," said lead researcher Qi Peng, a teacher at the electronics and information engineering department of Tongji University.
"The robot has stronger capabilities in visualization, recognition and operation than we humans have," said Qi, adding that it enables clinicians to acquire blood samples efficiently and safely and prevents unnecessary complications and injuries to both patients and clinicians.
Though many vein scanners already available on the market can help show the location and depth of blood vessels, they still require manual labor to collect blood samples and inject medication, the researcher noted.
The robot can automatically insert a needle into veins under the patient's skin, as researchers have developed an algorithm to determine the ideal angle and depth of injection.
Prior to entering the market, the invention won many awards at both national and local university student entrepreneurship competitions. It was also exhibited at the third China International Import Expo last year.
The machine will soon be tested in hospitals, benefiting more patients and medics, said Qi.