'Stealth Station' imaging tool helps University of Maryland surgeons treat tumors deep within the brain

January 03, 2000

University of Maryland system is the most advanced available

Doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center are using a powerful new imaging tool that enables them to perform difficult brain and sinus surgeries with more safety and precision. The Medical Center has the most advanced version of this breakthrough technology, known as the Stealth Station.

By combining an advanced computer with state of the art imaging technology, and infrared optics, the Stealth Station gives surgeons a three-dimensional view inside a patient's head and pinpoints the exact position of their surgical instruments within the cranial cavity.

"The Stealth Station helps guide us through hard to reach areas with greater confidence," says Howard M. Eisenberg, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "This technology combines the two biggest advances in neurosurgery in the past 40 years-3-D computer imaging and the operating microscope. The Stealth Station is a significant improvement," Dr. Eisenberg says.

By comparing abdominal surgery with brain surgery, the value of the Stealth Station becomes even more apparent. "The abdomen is like a room with furniture," says Dr. Eisenberg. "Surgeons can move abdominal organs around to gain better access to the area in which they are operating." But, Dr. Eisenberg says, operating deep within the brain is different. "To remove tumors, surgeons often must navigate through healthy brain tissue and a maze of delicate nerves and arteries."

"The margin of error is very slim, especially around the eyes, ears, and sinuses," says Bert W. O'Malley, M.D., director of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, and associate professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

"To avoid the risk of complications such as stroke, facial paralysis, hearing or speech loss, or blindness, we are often forced to take a conservative approach, leaving some of the tumor behind. The Stealth Station allows us to be more thorough, decreasing the risk of injury and improving our chances of removing the whole tumor," Dr. O'Malley says.

At the University of Maryland Medical Center, the Stealth Station is offering new hope for patients with tumors located in the brain or at the base of the skull. About fifty thousand of these often difficult to treat tumors are diagnosed in the U.S. every year.

Here's how the Stealth Station works: The patient's MRI or CT scans are fed into the Stealth Station computer, which compares the images to several anatomical landmarks or reference points on the patient's head and face. Meanwhile, a sensor above the operating table tracks the position of the surgical instruments, which emit infrared light signals.

The Stealth Station computer then transforms the data into several three-dimensional images that are displayed on a high-resolution monitor in the operating room. On the computer screen, a red "X" pinpoints the location and movement of the instruments in real time. The Stealth Station is accurate to less than one millimeter.

The Stealth Station can also superimpose a 3-D image of the brain inside the surgeon's operating microscope. "This heads-up view is like having a transparent map displayed on the windshield of your car that corresponds with the road ahead," says Dr. Eisenberg.

"The Stealth Station makes surgery faster, safer, and less invasive," says Dr. O'Malley. He says on average, the Stealth Station reduces time spent in surgery by up to 40 percent, reduces recovery time, and can cut the hospital stay in half. All of those factors also make the Stealth Station more cost effective.

University of Maryland Medical Center surgeons are also using the Stealth Station to help them perform spinal surgery and delicate sinus surgery close to the brain and eyes. But Dr. O'Malley cautions that the Stealth Station is not a crutch.

"The Stealth Station can never replace the skill and expertise of a good surgeon, but it can enhance a surgeon's abilities and success in the most difficult cases."

University of Maryland Medical Center

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