Abhijit Guha, a neurosurgeon at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, who is unaffiliated with NeuroTouch, says that virtual surgery will never replace the real thing. “One weakness of the system is that it is based on archival MRI scans, which may not be valid as surgery proceeds due to brain and cerebrospinal fluid shifts,” Guha says. “Also, there is the judgment factor, especially when something goes wrong.”
A technical limitation of the prototype is that it can only represent tumors close to the surface of the brain, and surgeons can only use one hand. Development will continue through April 2011, however, and the final device will allow doctors to work on deep brain tumors with multiple surgical tools and both hands.
NRC plans to send prototypes to neurosurgery centers across Canada, and then transfer the technology to a commercial partner within two years. A commercial version could sell for $10,000 to $500,000, depending on its functions. “The package will include a PC-based planner for optimal surgical corridor selection as well as a trainer for surgical tasks and typical surgical procedures,” says NRC’s Robert DiRaddo, who led development. “The two will be integrated into a rehearsal system for patient-specific use.”
“The objective from the outset has been to commercialize the neurosurgical simulator,” D’Arcy says. “The goal is to put the simulator in clinics, hospitals, and teaching centers around the world, but there is a lot of work yet to be done.”