New tool to help make brain surgery easier and safer


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Engineers and surgeons have partnered together to remove brain tumors without making any incisions. Removing a brain tumor in the center of the head is not an easy task for surgeons.

Andria Remirez, PhD student, Vanderbilt University, says, “Basically you’re having to go through a lot of healthy brain tissue to get to that central part of the head.” 

But a technique that allows surgeons to go through the nose can save that healthy tissue. However, one problem still exists. 

Andria continues, “When they do this, they’re using these straight, rigid tools, basically chopsticks that they have to put through your nose.” 

A team of engineers designed flexible, steerable needles made up of metal tubes that can bend and twist as they move, giving easier access to the site of the tumor. The team has also used the same tools for diagnosing lung cancer. For current tools … 

“One of the problems they have is at the far out areas of the lung, they have no visualization out there and they also can’t steer their biopsy tools to get to those areas” says Margaret Rox, PhD student, Vanderbilt University.

The success rate of diagnosis with existing tools for tumors that are difficult to reach is 60 to 70 percent. With this new technology adding to existing tools like the bronchoscope it could be higher.

Margaret says, “We think we could hopefully get that to a hundred.” 

Which means for those with possible lung cancer the diagnosis could come sooner. 

Margaret continues, “The faster you can get that diagnosis, confirmation of lung cancer, the faster you can get treatment.” 

Risks for current methods for lung biopsy include lung collapse or bleeding due to the surgeon not being able to see clearly to get to a difficult to reach lung lesion. This new technology would allow the surgeon much better visibility, reach and to more accurately target far off tumors.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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