AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 4, 2017

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New 'Smart Needle' to Make Brain Surgery Safer

A new high-tech medical device to make brain surgery safer has been developed by researchers at the University of Adelaide. The tiny imaging probe, encased within a brain biopsy needle, lets surgeons ‘see’ at-risk blood vessels as they insert the needle, allowing them to avoid causing bleeds that can potentially be fatal. The project is a collaboration with the University of Western Australia and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital. “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,” says Professor Robert McLaughlin, chair of Biophotonics, Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics, at the University of Adelaide. “And what’s really exciting is the computer smarts behind this so that the computer itself recognizes the blood vessel and alerts the surgeon.” Over the past six months, the “smart needle” has been used in a pilot trial with 12 patients undergoing neurosurgery at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Western Australia.

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