It’s brain surgery, and there’s no question that the stakes are high. There is really no room for error in this kind of surgical procedure. One wrong move, and you could damage one of the two most important organs in the body, the brain. It takes a steady hand, laser-sharp focus, and now it also requires radar-like listening skills.
New technology, which has yet to be tested in a clinical setting, uses a laser probe to transmit an audio signal that indicates whether the cells are healthy or cancerous. In recent operations, surgeons relied on a laser probe that would project to a visual screen that would tell them whether or not they were cutting into healthy or cancerous tissue.
This new sound-based technology is beneficial because it allows the surgeon to focus on the scalpel. The surgeon never has to take his eyes off of where he is cutting. The goal would be to hopefully create more efficient and more effective brain surgeries.
The technology involves firing lasers at the cells and analyzing how the light bounces back. The results produce a graph that is similar to a fingerprint of brain cells. When looking at the graph, it is possible to tell whether the scalpel hovers over a cancerous or a healthy cell.
This increases accuracy of surgery. Not removing cancerous cells could leave the patient with cancer still. Removing healthy cells could leave the patient with brain damage. There is a delicate balance for the neurosurgeon.
The visual probe technology has been successfully trialed in the United Kingdom and Canada. Matthew Baker of the University of Strathclyde in the UK hopes to improve on the technology further with audio signaling. The update has come out of a collaboration between UK universities and hospitals.
It takes the most important features of the probe’s signal and synthesizes them into sounds rather than visual cues. This new technology can help the neurosurgeon to maintain the laser-sharp focus necessary for brain surgery. It would hopefully make neurosurgery for brain tumors quicker and more effective, too.