Brain surgeon teams with NASA scientists to develop 3D high-definition surgical instruments


Brain surgeon Hrayr Shahinian (the Skull Base Institute, Los Angeles, USA), a pioneer in minimally invasive surgery, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, USA, have introduced the next generation of high-tech surgical instruments to remove tumours and treat other brain abnormalities.

MARVEL (Multi angle rear viewing endoscopic tool) captures and displays 3D high-definition images of the brain and enables surgeons to perceive depth and “peek around corners” that, until now, have been off limits, it says in a company release. These images allow surgeons to perform procedures quicker, safer and more precisely resulting in better outcomes and lower costs for both hospitals and patients. For NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the technology is expected improve future versions of the Mars Rover planetary explorer.

This advancement marks the latest development in a move away from the more traditional open craniotomy. The procedure, used by neurosurgeons, involves removing large sections of skull to reach problem areas. According to the release, it is more costly than endoscopy and results in longer hospital stays and ongoing rehabilitation. Currently, more than 98% of all brain surgery in the USA is performed using the open craniotomy.

“This technology defines the future of our work in the operating room and on NASA missions,” says Shahinian. “The scientists at Jet Propulsion Laboratory and I are proud of our work which shows how the spirit of collaboration between two very different disciplines can benefit society as a whole.”

This minimally invasive approach has been adopted in other centres, including the Mayo Clinic, UCLA, USC and Johns Hopkins (all USA).