Robots on the Brain

The merging of human surgical experience with machines and computerized technologies is driving neurosurgical advancement. Remotely controlled robots can perform procedures with a level of precision that humans cannot match, while virtual reality promises to enhance training significantly.

CALGARY – When Harvey Cushing and William Bovie introduced electrocautery (which uses a high-frequency current to seal blood vessels or make incisions) in 1926, their innovation transformed neurosurgery. Given the precision required to operate on an organ as delicate as the brain, the convergence of mechanical technologies with the art of surgery catalyzed progress in the field.

Neurosurgical advances always pursue minimalism. As in any other surgical field, the less the procedure interferes with the body, the less likely it is to affect the patient’s quality of life adversely, and the sooner the patient will be able to return to normal activity.

This imperative is even more pronounced when it comes to sensitive neurological procedures. Tasks like maneuvering small blood vessels that are 1-2 millimeters in diameter, or removing a brain tumor without damaging the surrounding tissue, require technologies, such as the operating microscope and multimodal imaging tools, that complement surgeons’ skills and augment their abilities.

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