We propose here a new alternative to provide real-time device tracking during minimally invasive interventions using a truly-distributed strain sensor based on optical frequency domain reflectometry (OFDR) in optical fibers. The guidance of minimally invasive medical instruments such as needles or catheters (ex. by adding a piezoelectric coating) has been the focus of extensive research in the past decades. Real-time tracking of instruments in medical interventions facilitates image guidance and helps the user to reach a pre-localized target more precisely. Image-guided systems using ultrasound imaging and shape sensors based on fiber Bragg gratings (FBG)-embedded optical fibers can provide retroactive feedback to the user in order to reach the targeted areas with even more precision. However, ultrasound imaging with electro-magnetic tracking cannot be used in the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) suite, while shape sensors based on FBG embedded in optical fibers provides discrete values of the instrument position, which requires approximations to be made to evaluate its global shape. This is why a truly-distributed strain sensor based on OFDR could enhance the tracking accuracy. In both cases, since the strain is proportional to the radius of curvature of the fiber, a strain sensor can provide the three-dimensional shape of medical instruments by simply inserting fibers inside the devices. To faithfully follow the shape of the needle in the tracking frame, 3 fibers glued in a specific geometry are used, providing 3 degrees of freedom along the fiber. Near real-time tracking of medical instruments is thus obtained offering clear advantages for clinical monitoring in remotely controlled catheter or needle guidance. We present results demonstrating the promising aspects of this approach as well the limitations of using the OFDR technique.
Rayleigh scatter in optical fiber communication systems has long been considered a nuisance as a loss mechanism, although applications have used such scatter to probe the fiber for faults and propagation loss using time domain reflectometry (OTDR). It is however only with the development of Frequency domain reflectometry (OFDR) and coherent-phase OTDR that Rayleigh scatter has been probed to its deepest and can now be used to measure strain and temperature along a fiber, leading to the first distributed sensing applications. However, Rayleigh scatter remains very weak giving rise to very small signals which limits the technique for sensing. We show here a new technique to significantly enhance the Rayleigh scatter signal by at least two orders of magnitude, in a standard optical fiber with simple UV exposure of the core. A study of various exposures with different types of fibers has been conducted and a phenomenological description developed. We demonstrate that such an increase in signal can enhance the temperature and strain sensitivity by an order of magnitude for distributed sensing with an OFDR technique. Such improved performance can lead to temperature/strain RMS noise levels of 6 mK and 50 nε for 1 cm spatial resolution in UV exposed SMF-28, compared to the typical noise level of 100 mK for the same spatial resolution in the similar unexposed fiber.
Accurate needle placement is essential in percutaneous procedures such as radiofrequency ablation (RFA) of liver tumors. Use of real-time navigation of an interventional needle can improve targeting accuracy and yield precise measurements of the needle tip inside the body. An emerging technology based on Fiber Bragg Grating (FBG) sensors has demonstrated the potential of estimating shapes at high frequencies (up to 20 kHz), fast enough for real-time applications. In this paper, we present a calibration procedure for this novel needle tracking technology using strain measurements obtained from fiber Bragg gratings (FBGs). Three glass fibers equipped with two FBGs each were incorporated into a 19G needle. The 3D needle shape is reconstructed based on a polynomial fitting of strain measurements obtained from the fibers. The real-time information provided by the needle tip position and shape allows tracking of the needle deflections during tissue insertion. An experimental setup was designed to yield a calibration that is insensitive to ambient temperature fluctuations and robust to slight external disturbances. We compare the shape of the 3D reconstructed needle to measurements obtained from camera images, as well as assess needle tip tracking accuracy on a ground-truth phantom. Initial results show that the tracking errors for the needle tip are under 1mm, while 3D shape deflections are minimal near the needle tip. The accuracy is appropriate for applications such as RFA of liver tumors.