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Seeing biopsy needle reduces brain surgery risk

Health

A camera the width of a human hair has undergone initial human tests in Australia to help brain surgeons avoid rupturing ‘at-risk’ blood vessels.

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A team of researchers and clinicians led by the University of Adelaide in South Australia has demonstrated the potential of the ‘imaging needle’ for reducing the risk of dangerous brain bleeds in patients undergoing brain biopsy.

Published today in the journal Science Advances, the researchers describe how they fashioned the imaging device with a tiny fibre-optic camera encased within a brain biopsy needle.

The tiny imaging needle can detect blood vessels with a very high degree of accuracy (91.2% sensitivity and 97.7% specificity).

“Brain biopsies are a common procedure carried out to diagnose brain tumour and other diseases,” said Professor Robert McLaughlin, Chair of Biophotonics in the University of Adelaide’s Medical School.

“It is a minimally invasive operation, but still carries the risk of damage to blood vessels that is potentially fatal.

“The imaging needle lets surgeons ‘see’ at-risk blood vessels as they insert the needle, allowing them to avoid causing bleeds.

“The fibre-optic camera, the size of a human hair, shines infrared light onto the brain tissue and the computer system behind the needle identifies the blood vessel and alerts the surgeon.”

Led by researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics and the University of Adelaide’s Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing, the project is a collaboration with Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and originated out of work undertaken at the University of Western Australia.

The imaging needle has undergone an initial validation with 11 patients at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.

“These patients were undergoing other types of neurosurgery, and consented to allow us to safely test how well the imaging needle was able to detect blood vessels during surgery,” Professor McLaughlin said.

“This is the first reported use of such a probe in the human brain during live surgery, and is the first step in the long process required to bring new tools like this into clinical practice.”

Consultant Neurosurgeon at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital Professor Christopher Lind led the clinical trial.

He said bleeds were a risk in many types of neurosurgery and there was a great opportunity for new technologies such as the imaging needle to help reduce those risks.

“To have a tool that can see blood vessels as you proceed through the brain would open up new vistas of things that can be done with neurosurgery, things that we currently don’t trust our own hands to do,” Professor Lind said.

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story.

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