Scientists have developed a new smart needle with a tiny camera that allows surgeons to see at-risk blood vessels and avoid injuring them, an advance that may make brain surgery safer.
The tiny imaging probe, encased within a brain biopsy needle, lets surgeons 'see' blood vessels as they insert the needle, allowing them to avoid causing bleeds that can potentially be fatal.
"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," said Robert McLaughlin, professor at the University of Adelaide.
"And what's really exciting is the computer smarts behind this so that the computer itself recognises the blood vessel and alerts the surgeon," McLaughlin said.
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.
The smart needle will be ready for formal clinical trials next year, researchers said.
The team are in discussions with a number of international medical device manufacturers and are seeking to manufacture the smart needles in Australia.
"To have a tool that can see blood vessels as we proceed through the brain would revolutionise neurosurgery," said Christopher Lind, Consultant Neurosurgeon at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and the University of Western Australia,
"It will open the way for safer surgery, allowing us to do things we've not been able to do before," said Lind, who led the clinical trial.
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