The first comprehensive reference book about the biomechanics of the brain has been edited by The University of Western Australia's Winthrop Professor Karol Miller, head of the University's Intelligent Systems for Medicine Laboratory - the world's most cited laboratory working in the field.
Entitled Biomechanics of the Brain, the book is the result of new research conducted at UWA and other world-leading research universities. It covers topics from brain anatomy and imaging to sophisticated methods of modelling brain injury and neurosurgery, to the latest methods in analysing cerebrospinal fluid and blood flow. It is published by Springer, New York.
Recent developments in the understanding of soft tissues - once an area neglected in favour of load-bearing tissues such as bones, ligaments, muscles and lungs - are about to revolutionise surgery and improve patient outcomes.
Professor Miller said biomechanics and computer science would transform risky soft-tissue surgery such as operations to remove brain tumours.
"It is essential for surgeons to know exactly how a soft organ, such as the brain, will change shape, or ‘deform', during surgery," he said. "A pre-surgery magnetic resonance image (MRI) gives an accurate picture of the brain and the location of the tumour before the start of the operation, but during the operation the organ changes slightly and crucially, due to a number of factors including anaesthesia, cerebrospinal fluid flow and interactions with surgical instruments.
"Traditionally, surgeons use ‘mental projection' to estimate these changes, which can be up to 20 mm. Our work provides a patient-specific, very cost effective, very fast, very sophisticated intra-operatic guide that surgeons will use while they are operating. Thanks to our algorithms working perfectly on graphics processing units, within 10 seconds one can get an accurate picture of the complexity of deformations from a basic computer.
"This means that neurosurgeons are more likely to feel confident cutting more of the tumour out, knowing they are leaving the healthy tissue behind.
The work undertaken in Professor Miller's laboratory is being evaluated at clinical hospitals of Harvard Medical School in Boston, the leading provider of surgical technology BrainLab (Munich, Germany) as well as a number of research institutions in Europe.
Photo courtesy Professor Wies Nowinski, ASTAR, Singapore