02:12pm Sunday 26 January 2020

SLU Researchers Develop Innovative, Cutting-Edge Neurosurgery System

From left: Robert Woodruff, Richard Bucholz, M.D., William Macneil, Lee McDurmont and Tim Brooks at Bucholz’ demonstration unit in the School of Medicine. Photo by Dave Reddick

CFO, CIO Explore Neurosurgery System

SLU Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Robert Woodruff and Vice President and Chief Information Officer Tim Brooks recently met with Richard Bucholz, M.D., Lee McDurmont and William Macneil, to demo the SurgOn system.

Woodruff and Brooks said they liked what they saw.

“I was very impressed by what we saw,” said Woodruff. “The steps Dr. Bucholz and his team have taken make me proud to be part of Saint Louis University. It is this sort of innovative thinking and entrepreneurial spirit that will enhance the institution’s reputation and ensure its continued viability going forward.”

Brooks also expressed support for the program. “This program is an excellent example of how the marriage of clinical expertise and information technology can deliver innovative solutions that improve the quality and accessibility of patient care,” he said. “We are truly excited about supporting this research project.”

Developed by Richard Bucholz, M.D., professor of surgery, Lee McDurmont, manager of surgery-administration and William Macneil, research assistant in surgery-neurosurgery, the integrated surgical communication network is called SurgON. It will allow Bucholz — or other experts — to view in real time procedures being performed by less experienced surgeons and if necessary, participate in them remotely to successfully complete the operation.

“Medical care has become technologically and experientially intense,” Bucholz said, “especially in neurosurgery, with stroke management, image guided removal of tumors and functional restoration through brain stimulation.

“The optimal delivery of medical care is often critically time-sensitive, and the expertise to deliver technologically intensive medical care is not uniformly distributed,” he said. “For many Americans, the closest neurosurgeon is more than 60 miles away.”

For life-threatening emergencies, that means it could be hours before an injured patient could be seen by an experienced neurosurgeon with access to the sophisticated diagnostic and monitoring equipment necessary to undertake delicate surgical procedures. That falls outside what is called the “magic hour” for trauma, including surgical interventions for stroke and cardiac conditions.

Relying on SurgON, a patient could more quickly be treated by a less experienced surgeon at a less advanced surgical suite, with the entire process being overseen — or even directed — by an expert in the specific procedure, who is sitting at a desk thousands of miles away, viewing the operation on a personal computer or other digital device.

The network can equally be helpful for elective surgery, because specialists can use the network to dramatically extend their geographic reach. And it means a specialist can be involved in multiple procedures, in a myriad of venues in the same day, all without leaving their office.

While the web-based communications network will allow for global provision of surgical support, a key to providing it is the integration of multiple sources of information in the operating room.”

A surgeon relies on many different devices during a procedure. Each one has its own method of monitoring or operating,” Bucholz said. “A surgeon may have to move from one piece of equipment to another and back again, or shout directions to someone else in the suite.”

“An optimal solution would be to allow seamless sharing of all clinically relevant information retrieved directly from the device, and making it accessible on a single graphic display,” he said.

To address that, Bucholz, McDurmont and Macneil designed software to unify and display all information obtained from monitoring devices in the suite and to create a single controller, allowing the surgeon to work from a single console. A proof-of-concept demonstration unit has been set up in Bucholz’ Schwitalla Hall School of Medicine lab.

When the integrated surgical communication network is operational, a practicing surgeon can allow the information on the console to be accessed by a computer anywhere there is a high speed internet connection and turn over control of the monitoring and operating devices to the distant specialist.

Bucholz, McDurmont and Macneil said that funding for the innovative network is imminent, and once that funding is secured, the team will be able to have its second generation console ready for further real-world and corporate testing in 12-18 months.

David Reddick

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