Needle-like instruments for steering through solid organs: A review of the scientific and patent literature

Marta Scali, T.P. Pusch, Paul Breedveld, Dimitra Dodou

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)
148 Downloads (Pure)


High accuracy and precision in reaching target locations inside the human body is necessary for the success of percutaneous procedures, such as tissue sample removal (biopsy), brachytherapy, and localized drug delivery. Flexible steerable needles may allow the surgeon to reach targets deep inside solid organs while avoiding sensitive structures (e.g. blood vessels). This article provides a systematic classification of possible mechanical solutions for three-dimensional steering through solid organs. A scientific and patent literature search of steerable instrument designs was conducted using Scopus and Web of Science Derwent Innovations Index patent database, respectively. First, we distinguished between mechanisms in which deflection is induced by the pre-defined shape of the instrument versus mechanisms in which an actuator changes the deflection angle of the instrument on demand. Second, we distinguished between mechanisms deflecting in one versus two planes. The combination of deflection method and number of deflection planes led to eight logically derived mechanical solutions for three-dimensional steering, of which one was dismissed because it was considered meaningless. Next, we classified the instrument designs retrieved from the scientific and patent literature into the identified solutions. We found papers and patents describing instrument designs for six of the seven solutions. We did not find papers or patents describing instruments that steer in one-plane on-demand via an actuator and in a perpendicular plane with a pre-defined deflection angle via a bevel tip or a pre-curved configuration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250-265
JournalInstitution of Mechanical Engineers. Proceedings. Part H: Journal of Engineering in Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Accepted Author Manuscript


  • Deflection
  • mechanical design
  • medical needles
  • steerable needles
  • solid organs


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