Prototype navigation system for the human body allows surgeons to plan operations, even practice in virtual environment

February 28, 2013

An international consortium led by researchers at the Laboratory of Biomechanical Engineering of the MIRA research institute of the University of Twente is developing a system that allows surgeons to plan complex musculo-skeletal operations. In essence, the system is a patient-specific navigation tool for the human body, in which all relevant X-ray and MRI images of a patient are linked together. The surgeon can thus plan the operation much more effectively, simulate the effects of an intervention and even practice in advance in a virtual environment. The consortium has completed the first prototype of the system.

If a surgeon needs to reposition a muscle in a patient, for example as a result of a tumour removal or as a part of hip prosthesis revision surgery, then it is vital that the muscle is attached at a suitable place. In practice, the surgeon relies on his or her experience and to decide where to attach the muscle. As a result, it is often unknown whether the patient will be able to walk normally following the operation and carry out other activities of daily living.

As part of the TLEMsafe programme, an international consortium of companies and universities has been working on a that incorporates all relevant X-ray and of the lower half of a patient's body. The surgeon can use the system for planning the operation much more effectively, first of all for simulating the effects of an intervention, but also for practicing in a . The outcome of the operation is thus less dependent on the surgeon's intuition and previous experience, complications can be avoided in the long term and better predictions can be made about the functional results of the surgery for the patient.

The consortium has completed their first prototype of the system. They have succeeded in virtually replicating the musculo-skeletal system of the lower , including all muscles, muscle volumes, , bones and muscle attachment sites. This makes it possible to simulate operations in advance of the real thing. The next challenge is to actually demonstrate that the functional outcome of surgery can be accurately predicted. The consortium expects to have completed a full functional prototype of the final system in about two years.

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