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3D Ultrasonic Neuronavigation System for Image-Guided Brain Surgery
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
This GPS-like system could help surgeons navigate through the brain to find and remove everything from tumors to bullet fragments easily, cheaply, and with hardly any cutting. The ultrasonic-based locational system was designed with neurosurgeon Sumeer Lal.
The neuronavigation system, adapted from one developed some years ago to track robots, eliminates cameras and replaces them with a head restraint from which ultrasonic sensors branch off like tree limbs. It also adds sensors to the surgeon’s probe. The two sensors on the probe act as transmitters while those on the head restraint serve as receivers, allowing the equipment to map the probe’s movement through the brain in three dimensions.
Because the receivers that replace the cameras take up much less space, sightline problems don’t occur. And because they remain in place — not on the patient’s head, but close by — recalibration in a sterile environment is easier. The new system has sub-millimeter accuracy, which should make the system more attractive to neurosurgeons. Hospitals can pay as much as $500,000 to $750,000 for standard image-guided neurosurgery equipment. The cost of the new system would be significantly less — perhaps $50,000 to $75,000.
The system also has other applications. Caterpillar Inc. has inquired about using the system to improve its ergonomics program, which examines how operators of the heavy equipment it manufactures move about in the driver’s seat.