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New Software Tells Brain Surgeons Where to Cut

Operating on the brain is a bit like ice fishing. Doctors cut a hole into the skull as small as half the size of a penny and can’t necessarily see what’s below. Sometimes they create an opening as large as 70 millimeters—the size of some camera lenses–forcing doctors to cut through broad areas of bone and tissue.

Surgeons must then navigate more than 400 miles of blood vessels and delicate lobes controlling speech, sight, smell and memory every time they want to excise a tumor or relieve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, depression and other neurological disorders.

Figuring out the best trajectory to attack a tumor or fluid-filled cyst is as much science as it is art.

“Field of image or computer-assisted surgery is a very evolving project in medicine—especially in neurosurgery,” says Dr. Yigal Shoshan, head of Hadassah Hospital’s neurosurgery department, who along with Leo Joskowicz, a Hebrew University computer science professor, is developing the software.

The software combines a wide array of data to create a 3-D brain map instead of the traditional two-dimensional MRI. Functional MRIs capture blood flow changes that reflect areas of heightened neural activity, rather than simply an image of the organ. Overlaying the functional MRI image is another data set from a Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA), which focuses on the brain’s arteries and highlights irregularities, blockages and aneurysms.

All this data is processed to generate green and red color codes representing where surgeons should and should not cut. The areas that the software analyzes as too dangerous or too close to vital parts of the brain are placed in the red zone.

Read the complete story from Txchnologist.com, sponsored by GE and written by Meredith Mandell.