New smart needle aims to make brain surgery safer

Brain surgery has to be one of the most stressful experiences a human can undergo, so any attempts to make it safer have to be cherished.  A recent project by researchers from the University of Adelaide is therefore particularly interesting.

They’ve developed a tiny imaging probe that is encased within a brain biopsy needle.  The device is designed to give surgeons the ability to see potentially risky bloody vessels and thus avoid potentially catastrophic bleeds during surgery.

“We call it a smart needle. It contains a tiny fibre-optic camera, the size of a human hair, shining infrared light to see the vessels before the needle can damage them,” the researchers say.  “And what’s really exciting is the computer smarts behind this so that the computer itself recognises the blood vessel and alerts the surgeon.”

Smart needle

The device has already been tested out in a small pilot study involving 12 patients as they underwent neurosurgery in Australia.  The next stage is to undergo formal clinical trials in 2018, with the researchers talking with a number of medical device companies to manufacture the device in Australia.

“It’s an ideal technology to commercialise in Australia,” they say. “We have the engineering expertise and world-class hospitals here, and enthusiasm from the surgeons.”

“To have a tool that can see blood vessels as we proceed through the brain would revolutionise neurosurgery,” the medical team behind the initial test say. “It will open the way for safer surgery, allowing us to do things we’ve not been able to do before.”

It’s certainly an interesting technology, and you can see more about the project via the video below.



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