ARCHIVED - Simulation-based brain surgery in Halifax yields breakthrough in surgical training and rehearsal

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August 26, 2009— Halifax, Nova Scotia

Dr. David Clarke, a staff neurosurgeon at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax, made medical history by becoming the first to successfully remove a patient’s brain tumour with the assistance of a virtual-reality neurosurgical simulator developed by the National Research Council (NRC).

The neurosurgical simulator uses innovative NRC technology to create an operating room atmosphere, allowing doctors to rehearse complex brain surgeries prior to performing the actual surgery.

Dr. David Clarke, neurosurgeon at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre, used the virtual-reality neurosurgical simulator, developed at the NRC, to successfully remove a brain tumour.

Dr. David Clarke, neurosurgeon at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre, used the virtual-reality neurosurgical simulator, developed at the NRC, to successfully remove a brain tumour.

"We take a series of sophisticated MRI scans of the patient’s brain and put them into the simulator so the simulator can show the individual’s anatomy and all key areas of concern," said Dr. Ryan D’Arcy, an NRC neuroscientist who helped develop the simulator. “The images are displayed in three dimensions. That means surgeons see a pulsating brain and actually feel what it feels like to interact with that tissue."

The virtual-reality brain surgery simulator is designed with innovative high-resolution haptics hardware that allows users to interact with virtual objects using motion and touch. Integrated software makes the virtual tissue behave just as it would in actual surgery and appear highly realistic.

"I feel the resistance of the tumour as I remove it and I feel the tip of the instrument vibrating," said Dr. Clarke. "It gives that very real feeling."

Dr. Robert DiRaddo, who leads the NRC neurosurgical simulator project, added that he anticipates seven prototypes of the system in use across Canada within 18 months. "The use of this technology marks a significant breakthrough in terms brain surgery and places Canada at the forefront of surgical simulation research and development and the education of tomorrow's surgeons."

Meanwhile, Dr. Clarke expects the simulator to be used worldwide within three to five years.

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