Addenbrooke's brain surgeons pioneer 3D imaging technology in the UK

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Doctors at Addenbrooke's hospital in Cambridge, UK have been given access to the latest 3D technology in neurosurgery theatres to help train surgeons.

The real-time 3D HD visualisation system is used to view extremely detailed operations, such as brain tumour, vascular and skull-based surgeries. Addenbrooke’s is among few hospitals in the world to have this technology and has already used it to operate on more than 50 patients.

Thomas Santarius, consultant neurosurgeon, was inspired to use 3D technology by professors Guilherme Ribas (Brazil) and Albert Rhoton (US), who have been the pioneers of stereoscopic imaging. Santarius said: ‘Anatomy is vital in neurosurgery. While in surgeries you can usually obtain a greater anatomical context by lifting a muscle or a piece of bowel and see what’s behind. In brain surgery it is rarely possible to move the brain tissue or other structures without unwanted consequences. So you need to develop an X-ray vision [system] to perform neurosurgery.’

The new state-of-the-art equipment maximises the operative experience of trainee surgeons from UK and abroad. Up to 10 trainees can observe the surgery at a time. Using 3D glasses they are able to see what traditionally only one or two surgeons could observe through a microscope. After the surgery, students, trainee and senior surgeons can use the footage for teaching and discussion with colleagues. This enhances and speeds up learning of operative neurosurgery, sharing experience and personal improvement.

Junior neurosurgical trainee, Dr Damiano Barone, from Italy, now working in Liverpool, had a chance to use the device and view the surgery in real time. Dr Barone said: ‘I am in that part of my career where translating medical school neuroanatomy knowledge in true microscopic operating anatomy knowledge is the most challenging process. Using this technology I was able to appreciate the complex neuroanatomy in theatre and actually understand the different steps of the operation. I also had a discussion with my consultant after the surgery. This definitely relieved me from the worry of disturbing the flow of the operation with my questions and made learning a less stressful and more enjoyable process.’

As a leading hospital for neurosciences, Addenbrooke’s is expecting to start the first trial of 3D technology developed by Zeiss company by the end of the year.

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