A distinguished Harvard Medical School professor who is spearheading the use of computer graphics in the operating theatre will work at The University of Western Australia later this year.
Professor Ron Kikinis will also give a public lecture and a master class, and join international collaborators at UWA to perfect their new computerised brain-surgery technology.
At Harvard, Professor Kikinis is Robert Greenes Distinguished Director of Biomedical Informatics Professor of Radiology, and Founding Director of Surgical Planning Laboratory.
He will work at UWA with Winthrop Professor Karol Miller, head of the University's Intelligent Systems for Medicine Laboratory - the world's most cited laboratory working in the field of brain biomechanics.
Their work at UWA involves finding ways to better remove brain tumours by using computers to more accurately measure changes in the brain during surgery.
Professor Miller said it was very exciting to host a high-profile visitor with whom he had co-written several papers. Professor Miller's work is being trialled at clinical hospitals affiliated with Harvard Medical School, much of it supervised by Professor Kikinis.
"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 will 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 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.
"Our methods of modelling the brain and computing deformities provide data that enhances neuro-navigation, already known to improve patient outcomes in other contexts such as treating epilepsy," Professor Miller said.