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Virtual Reality Neurosurgery


August 2, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Most kids know all about virtual reality. It’s how they play video games and watch movies. But now a major hospital system is putting this familiar 3D technology into the hands of its pediatric neurosurgeons to help saves lives.
Mathias Hahn has always been the type of kid his mom would never have to worry about. Straight A’s, basketball, and cross country. But that all changed last fall.
“I woke up having a really bad headache,” Mathias told Ivanhoe.
It soon became clear to his mom that something more serious was happening.
Mathias’ mother, Lindsay Hahn, said, “The emergency room was able to do a CAT scan and they found the bleed.”
With a hemorrhage on his brain, Mathias was taken to the hospital where he began the fight for his life.
“He was lying in his ICU bed, paralyzed on one side and literally unable to say a word,” said Kurtis Auguste, MD, Pediatric Neurosurgeon at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, Oakland.
“It was super scary. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to move again, maybe,” Mathias shared.
When Dr. Auguste began to operate to relieve pressure, he spotted a tumor.
“Where this was tucked underneath the edge of the bone, my visibility was limited and it was very difficult for me to reach and see,” he explained.
But this doctor let technology guide him.  A virtual reality mapping system gave him a 360- degree view of Mathias’ brain constructed from CT and MRI images. It allowed Dr. Auguste to step inside Mathias’ brain and see the tumor from a new vantage point. He then shared his plan and headset with Mathias and his mom.
“It was comforting to see he had this tool that allowed him to see the tumor in so many different ways and decide how he could approach it safely,” Lindsay said.
Which is exactly what the doctor was able to do in surgery thanks to the VR technology. And as a result, Mathias is now healthy and cancer free.
“I can just be a normal kid again,”  Mathias said.
The virtual reality model provides surgeons a continuous guide to the intricate and crowded space inside our brains. UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland is among several institutions across the country to use this technology.
Contributors to this news report include: Jennifer Winter, Field Producer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Rusty Reed, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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BACKGROUND: Pediatric brain tumors are masses or growths of abnormal cells that occur in a child’s brain or the tissue and structures that are near it. Many different types of pediatric brain tumors exist, some are noncancerous (benign) and some are cancerous (malignant). Treatment and chance of recovery depend on the type of tumor, its location within the brain, whether it has spread, and your child’s age and general health. Because new treatments and technologies are continually being developed, several options may be available at different points in treatment. Treatment for brain tumors in children is typically quite different from treatment for adult brain tumors, so it’s very important to enlist the expertise and experience of pediatric specialists in neurology and cancer. Some of the more common symptoms of a brain tumor in children include: headaches, which may become more frequent and more severe, feeling of increased pressure in the head, unexplained nausea or vomiting, and abrupt onset of vision problems.

TREATMENT: If the brain tumor is located in a place that makes it accessible for an operation, the pediatric neurosurgeon will work to remove as much of the brain tumor as safely as possible. In some cases, tumors are small and easy to separate from surrounding brain tissue, which makes complete surgical removal possible. In other cases, tumors can’t be separated from surrounding tissue or they’re located near sensitive areas in the brain, making surgery risky. In these situations the pediatric neurosurgeon removes as much of the tumor as possible.

NEW TECHNOLOGY: Kurtis Auguste, MD, a Pediatric Neurosurgeon and Director of the Pediatric Epilepsy Program at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland is using a virtual reality mapping system to create 3D images of patient’s brains. Dr. Auguste said, “much of what we do is two dimensional; these are pictures on a flat screen. It’s a little ironic because brain surgery is one of the most three dimensional exercises that you do in medicine and yet everything that we do for rehearsal purposes prior to surgery is all done in two dimensions. This technology is the first of its kind to not just be three dimensional but is immersive and provides you a three hundred and sixty degree vantage point of the pathology.” It is a virtual reality surgical planning station, and the name of the company is Surgical Theater.
(Source: Kurtis Auguste, MD)


Melinda Krigel, Media Relations, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland
[email protected]

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