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Instrument delivery is critical part in vascular intervention surgery. Due to the soft-body structure of instruments, the relationship between manipulation commands and instrument motion is non-linear, making instrument delivery challenging and time-consuming. Reinforcement learning has the potential to learn manipulation skills and automate instrument delivery with enhanced success rates and reduced workload of physicians. However, due to the sample inefficiency when using high-dimensional images, existing reinforcement learning algorithms are limited on realistic vascular robotic systems. To alleviate this problem, this paper proposes discrete soft actor-critic with auto-encoder (DSAC-AE) that augments SAC-discrete with an auxiliary reconstruction task. The algorithm is applied with distributed sample collection and parameter update in a robot-assisted preclinical environment. Experimental results indicate that guidewire delivery can be automatically implemented after 50k sampling steps in less than 15 h, demonstrating the proposed algorithm has the great potential to learn manipulation skill for vascular robotic systems.
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