Addenbrooke’s brain surgeons pioneer 3D technology in the UK

03 December 2012
Doctors at Addenbrooke’s are first to use the latest 3D technology in neurosurgery theatres in the UK.

The technology mainly is used for training purposes and the future patients will benefit through better trained surgeons.

This real-time 3D HD visualization system enables the viewing of extremely detailed operations, such as brain tumour, vascular and skull base surgeries. Addenbrooke’s is among few hospitals in the world to have this technology and has already used it to operate on more than 50 patients.

Mr Thomas Santarius, consultant neurosurgeon, was inspired to use 3D technology by professors Guilherme Ribas (Brazil) and Albert Rhoton (U.S.), who have been the pioneers of stereoscopic imaging. Mr Santarius said: “Anatomy is vital in neurosurgery. While in surgeries you can usually obtain a greater anatomical context by lifting a muscle or a piece of bowel and see what’s behind in brain surgery it is rarely possible to move the brain tissue or other structures without unwanted consequences. So you need to develop an X-ray vision to perform neurosurgery.”

3D technology in neurosurgery

The new state-of-the-art equipment maximises the operative experience of trainee surgeons from UK and abroad. Up to 10 trainees can observe the surgery at a time. Using 3D glasses they are able to see what traditionally only one or two surgeons could observe through a microscope.

After the surgery students, trainee and senior surgeons can see the footage use it for teaching and discussion with colleagues. This enhances and speeds up learning of operative neurosurgery, sharing experience and personal improvement.

Mr Santarius said: “3D technology helps to maximise learning yield per unit of time. This is particularly relevant in the context of recent reduction of working hours and overall length of training. Junior doctors and medical students are more involved with the surgery and so they get trained better and faster. This is good news for their future patients.”

Junior neurosurgical trainee Dr Damiano Barone from Italy, now working in Liverpool, had a chance to see the surgery in real time. Dr Barone said: “I am in that part of my career where translating medical school neuroanatomy knowledge in true microscopic operating anatomy knowledge is the most challenging process.

"Using this technology I was able to appreciate the complex neuroanatomy in theater and actually understanding the different steps of the operation. I also had a discussion with my consultant after the surgery. This definitely relieved me from the worry of disturbing the flow of the operation with my questions and made learning a less stressful and more enjoyable process.”

Technology is vital for development of neurosurgery department. Addenbrooke’s is a regional centre for the neurosurgery and according to 2020 Vision it is expected to expand and become the national centre for the treatment of a number of neurosurgical conditions.