Digital servants in the OR

Released September 18th, 2009 Computer-assisted surgery (CAS) has grown up and has long been used successfully in the world’s operating rooms. Important impulses for these modern surgeon’s assistants have come from Germany – and they still are.

A quiet revolution is taking place in the world’s operating rooms. Computers assist in numerous procedures, and information and communication technologies support the surgeon. Navigation systems identify the optimal path for the surgeon, infrared cameras monitor instrument position, alarm systems are triggered when the surgeon reaches critical areals or sensitive tissues. Micromanipulators render the surgeon’s movements more precise. Advances in imaging techniques and increasing data processing speeds were key factors in allowing detailed and individualized anatomical displays of various body regions.

The technical leap from two to three dimensions has been successful. Physicians no longer depend on appearance and experience alone, since their digital “servants” visualize complex images and relationships in the form of three-dimensional animations. Physicians can zoom into these computer models and rotate them horizontally or vertically. They take their patients on virtual flights through the nose or ear to explain the diagnosis and surgical methods. Surgeons can see the inside of their patients before even touching them with the scalpel. The goal is to define the best and most conservative access route for the particular procedure – and to virtually test it beforehand on the monitor or using a simulator. The development of these computer-assisted surgery systems is closely tied with the success of minimally-invasive surgery. At the forefront of this development were surgical disciplines with hard-to-reach, small or very sensitive surgical areas, such as neurosurgery, ENT surgery, oral and maxillofacial surgery, spine and joint surgery.

CAS technology was initiated in the mid-1980s. Several research groups independently strived to develop such systems – in Germany, Japan, Switzerland and the US. One of the pioneers was the German professor Georg Schlöndorff from Aachen. Schlöndorff tested a system that combined information from the computed tomograph with one of the first navigation systems – at the time, a massive, fairly cumbersome apparatus combined with a mechanical tracking system..

Navigation technology has come a long way since then: Increased computing capacities are the basis of faster and more convenient systems with touchless determination of instrument position via a stereo infrared camera. The International Reference and Development Centre for Surgical Technology (IRDC) in Leipzig supported by KARL STORZ is committed to continuing to advance surgical assistance systems. The goal is the development of high-tech devices that facilitate the surgeon’s work: Surgeons remain the heads of the operating room, while the automation allows them to increase their focus on the essential tasks and renders their work even more precise.

Weitere Informationen:

Für Anfragen und Anmeldungen für Interviews, Dreh- und Fototermine steht zur Verfügung:

PD Dr. Gero Strauß
Direktor IRDC
Käthe-Kollwitz-Straße 64
04109 Leipzig
Fon: +49 (0)341 – 33 73 31 60
Fax: +49 (0)341 – 33 73 31 63

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