12:27am Tuesday 21 May 2019

New technology to make brain surgery safer

A biopsy needle that can help surgeons identify and avoid blood vessels in the brain during surgery has undergone initial tests in humans by a research team from The University of Western Australia, The University of Adelaide and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.

The tests demonstrate the potential of the imaging needle for reducing the risk of dangerous brain bleeds in patients undergoing brain biopsy.

The paper published in Science Advances describes how the tiny imaging needle can detect blood vessels with a very high degree of accuracy: 91.2 per cent sensitivity and 97.7 per cent specificity.

The researchers produced the imaging device with a tiny fibre-optic camera encased within a brain biopsy needle. Brain biopsies are a common procedure carried out to diagnose brain tumors and other diseases.

UWA Professor Christopher Lind, Consultant Neurosurgeon at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital said the imaging needle has undergone an initial validation with 11 patients at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Western Australia.

“Bleeds are a risk in many types of neurosurgery and there is a great opportunity for new technologies like this to help us reduce those risks,” Professor Christopher Lind said.

Professor Robert McLaughlin, who played a lead role in creating the device at both UWA and The University of Adelaide, said brain biopsies are a minimally invasive operation, but still carry the risk of damage to blood vessels that is potentially fatal.

“The imaging needle lets surgeons see at-risk blood vessels as they insert the needle. These small vessels can be invisible to other types of scanning such as MRI,” Professor McLaughlin said.

“The fibre-optic camera, the size of a human hair, shines infrared light onto the brain tissue to detect vessels near the tip of the needle. The computer system behind the needle identifies the blood vessel and alerts the surgeon.

“The patients in the trial were undergoing other types of neurosurgery, and consented to allow us to safely test how well the imaging needle was able to detect blood vessels during surgery.”

“This is the first reported use of such a probe in the human brain during live surgery, and is the first step in the long process required to bring new tools like this into clinical practice.”

 

The University of Western Australia

 


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