Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Electrical and Computer Engineering


Dr. Rajni V. Patel


Catheters are long, flexible tubes that are extensively used in vascular and cardiac interventions, e.g., cardiac ablation, coronary angiography and mitral valve annuloplasty. Catheter-based cardiac ablation is a well-accepted treatment for atrial fibrillation, a common type of cardiac arrhythmia. During this procedure, a steerable ablation catheter is guided through the vasculature to the left atrium to correct the signal pathways inside the heart and restore normal heart rhythm. The outcome of the ablation procedure depends mainly on the correct positioning of the catheter tip at the target location inside the heart and also on maintaining a consistent contact between the catheter tip and cardiac tissue. In the presence of cardiac and respiratory motions, achieving these goals during the ablation procedure is very challenging without proper 3D visualization, dexterous control of the flexible catheter and an estimate of the catheter tip/tissue contact force.

This research project provides the required basis for developing a robotics-assisted catheter manipulation system with contact force control for use in cardiac ablation procedures. The behavior of the catheter is studied in free space as well in contact with the environment to develop mathematical models of the catheter tip that are well suited for developing control systems. The validity of the proposed modeling approaches and the performance of the suggested control techniques are evaluated experimentally.

As the first step, the static force-deflection relationship for ablation catheters is described with a large-deflection beam model and an optimized pseudo-rigid-body 3R model. The proposed static model is then used in developing a control system for controlling the contact force when the catheter tip is interacting with a static environment. Our studies also showed that it is possible to estimate the tip/tissue contact force by analyzing the shape of the catheter without installing a force sensor on the catheter.

During cardiac ablation, the catheter tip is in contact with a relatively fast moving environment (cardiac tissue). Robotic manipulation of the catheter has the potential to improve the quality of contact between the catheter tip and cardiac tissue. To this end, the frequency response of the catheter is investigated and a control technique is proposed to compensate for the cardiac motion and to maintain a constant tip/tissue contact force.

Our study on developing a motion compensated robotics-assisted catheter manipulation system suggests that redesigning the actuation mechanism of current ablation catheters would provide a major improvement in using these catheters in robotics-assisted cardiac ablation procedures.