Needle-based procedures, such as biopsy, thermal ablation, brachytherapy, and drug delivery, provide a minimally invasive means for diagnosis or treatment. The success of the procedure relies on the needle reaching the physician's desired target (typically identified on a medical image) accurately. However, due to tissue deformation and the accuracy limits of human hand–eye coordination, the needle may go off course. To aid in targeting, steerable needles have been developed (see, e.g., Refs. [1–3]). They offer the possibility of controllably deflecting the needle during insertion to enhance final tip accuracy, while also providing a means for obstacle avoidance (see Ref. [4] for a review).

Harnessing the bending forces that arise during insertion of a bevel tipped needle is one popular way to steer needles (see, e.g., Refs. [1,5]). A fixed bend or “kinked tip” has also been employed to amplify steering...

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