This new technology will make obsolete the way the brain looks currently.
Luckiest day in the life of Avi Yaron was when at age 26 had a motorcycle accident, or at least I think.
It was through this event that the doctors did a brain scan to check the damage and discovered a deep tumor that otherwise would have gone unnoticed.
And in 1993, the Israeli electronic engineering student reported that they had found a mass in the brain, located near critical areas for movement and thought. Encountered a dilemma: to undergo an invasive and complicated operation that could leave him paralyzed, or find another solution.
After a year of research and searching, Yaron got a New York surgeon who successfully removed the tumor which ended up being benign.
At that time, he was advised to wait until the technology improved so that the next surgery was less dangerous. But this was not an option for the engineer, as was the possibility that the rest of the parts of the brain tumor pressed while growing up. “I was young and thought about having a family. Could not be passive in that sword over my head,” he says.
After five years of searching for surgeons and technology experts, Yaron managed to remove what remained of the tumor with a conventional method. But this epic quest was turning over in his mind. Although the second operation had been successful, he was thinking and experimenting with new forms of brain surgery less invasive.
And he has perfected a way to operate on the brain: 3D.
In the past 25 years minimally invasive surgery in areas of relatively easy reach body has become common place, such as the abdomen and uterus, known as endoscopy. More recently, surgeons have also been able to use tubular instruments in brain operations.
In these processes a very thin tubular tool is inserted through a port in the skin or surgically made naturally. A camera attached to the end transmits images to the screen for the surgeon to see. Surgical instruments to take tissue samples or remove masses are also passed.
Early versions allowed surgeons to look at these images on a standard definition 2D, which in the last decade has evolved to high-definition systems.
Surgeons constantly move these 2D images into 3D in the same way that we do when we look at a 2D TV. But more recently, 3D technology has been available for certain types of operations. Although not for the brain, due to the complicated process (and the body).
In neurosurgery tubular tools must have a very small diameter that can pass through ports.
The other problem is that most endoscopes 3D are supported by two optical channels, each containing a sensor. These sensors collect images separately later to be mixed to give the appearance of three dimensions that the user sees on the screen. So far, enough to make a small instrument that can produce high quality images to neurosurgeons has proven to be a very difficult task.
But Yaron says he has solved that puzzle. Instead of copying the human anatomy, the tubular tool simulates the eye of a bee. It contains a miniature sensor with hundreds of thousands of micro elements, each looking at a slightly different direction and mapping the surgical field from different points.
With the help of a program, the information is translated into images for the right eye and the left. This company sensor Yaron Visionsense is small enough to operate in the brain tubular tool.
Shahzada Ahmed, Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, UK, performed the first brain surgery in 3D. “It was a bit like going to the movies. Avatar is a great movie in high definition, but it is even better in 3D.”
“When I use this sensor, I have a better appreciation of the depth and the images they feel more real,” he added.
It also allows you to view your 3D tools, helping you to better understand where they are in relation to key parts of the anatomy.
Now there are many studies being done to see if this technique in 3D is better than ordinary 2D systems.
Hani Marcus, neurosurgeon Hamlyn Centre, Imperial College London, recently compared this with conventional tool using a model of the brain and the involvement of novice surgeons with the technique. The study suggests several beneficial aspects of 3D, it reduces the operation time and subtly enhances depth perception. But Marcus clarifies that would be a mistake to automatically assume that 3D is better than 2D, adding that more studies are needed.
There are several potential problems, one of them is that surgeons are accustomed to seeing in 2D may have difficulty getting used to the new. And in the same way that some people do not enjoy watching 3D and feel a bit dizzy, the same could happen to the surgeons. But Yaron, whose tool is now used in the United States and Europe, this invention is the positive side of an issue for many years hovered his head.
“If I had not had that accident, I would not have been able to offer this solution. And really know what it feels like to have options.”