Victoria General Hospital's head of neurosurgery

Navigating the human brain

  • May. 26, 2011 7:00 a.m.

Hospitals foundation launches campaign for neuro-navigator

A monitor displays CT scans of a brain tumor alongside a 3D image of the patient’s head.

In a Victoria General Hospital operating room, head of neurosurgery Dr. Stephen Hentschel used the technology see exactly where his implements were inside the skull as he removed the tumor that was pressing against Kate Plummer’s optic nerve, threatening her eyesight.

“It allows us to navigate deep within the brain, to know where we are at all times to minimize complications and avoid critical structures,” Hentschel said.

The neuro-navigation system helped make Plummer’s surgery a success and has become the standard of care for the 250 brain and spine surgeries performed annually at VGH. It can also be used for nasal surgery and anywhere else where fractions of millimeters matter. But the seven-year-old machine is becoming outdated.

The Victoria Hospitals Foundation is now seeking donations towards the purchase of a new $361,000 machine with its spring fundraising campaign.

“While the existing system provides a quality of care, the new advanced technology will of course improve patient outcomes and improve the surgeon’s precision,” said foundation board chair Starr McMichael.

When the hospital purchased it’s existing neuro-navigation system, the technology was still new and there was only one company making them. Now there are four models to choose from.

“Each has its own bells and whistles, and we’ll be evaluating them to find the one that best meets our needs,” Hentschel said.

New machines are fully wireless, so doctors don’t need to fuss with a cord. They also have more user friendly operating systems and process images faster.

“It means we can work faster and hopefully increase the number of surgeries we perform,” Hentschel said.

The existing machine will likely still be used within the hospital after it’s replaced. Hentschel said it could be passed onto another area of care where surgeries require somewhat less precision, such as orthopedics.

“Other specialties are moving towards this type of technology,” Hentschel said. “The old machine won’t go unused.”

People can donate to the new neuro-navigation machine by calling 250-414-6688 or online at www.victoriahf.ca.

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