Surgery game-changer

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St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne has become the first public hospital in Australia to install the Synaptive Modus V – a robotic exoscope powered by artificial intelligence voice control that provides surgical teams with 3D visualisation and hands-free operation.

This equipment forms a vital part of an eco-system of technologies developed by Synaptive Medical. The integrated suite of products can be used to assist surgeons in pre-planning complex procedures and provide them with improved precision and 3D robotic visualisation as they navigate each surgery with improved ergonomics. It also offers greater opportunity to adopt a safer and less invasive surgical approach.

“It allows the surgeon to create an operative plan on their computer that is fed into the system and then digitally interpreted to guide them through the course of the surgery,” explains Dr Paul Smith, Director of Neurosurgery at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne.

With the addition of the Modus V robotic exoscope, Modus Plan Software Suite and the Modus Nav image guidance platform, St Vincent’s has also become the first hospital in Australia to provide the benefits of Synaptive’s full surgical planning and navigation system to patients.

“At St Vincent’s, we pride ourselves in being excellent surgeons interested in cutting-edge technologies and providing the best and up-to-date care for our patients. We believe in being on the front foot when it comes to new technologies and leaders as new things develop,” said Dr Andrew Gogos, a Neurosurgeon at St Vincent’s who led the first surgeries at the hospital using the new exoscope.

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Image (L to R): Dr Andrew Gogos and Dr Paul Smith demonstrating the exoscope technology to Victorian Minister for Health Mary-Anne Thomas

As a prominent education hub for medical advancement, St Vincent’s will be a global teaching site for the Asia-Pacific region in the use of this advanced robotic visualisation technology enabling improved precision and safety for brain surgery.

Local, interstate and international surgeons will spend time at the hospital to see it utilised in various procedures and gain first-hand knowledge and training from experienced surgeons at St Vincent’s.

They will then return overseas to apply the novel approach to their respective practices and institutions that was inspired by technology originally created for the International Space Station.

Benefits of a robotic-assisted view

Surgery on the brain can take between 5 to 16 hours or more, which Dr Gogos explained can be both mentally and physically demanding on a surgeon’s body.

“We previously used an operative microscope which requires the surgeon’s body and head position to be fixed in relation to the microscope. If we had to move the microscope to see a different angle, we would physically have to shift our body,” said Dr Gogos.

Using the robotic exoscope, the surgeon has the ability to move the robotic arm of the device with ease, using voice commands to gain access to more challenging views. This permits the surgeon to maintain an ergonomic position throughout the procedure, while minimising time spent changing the visual perspective.

This new approach can potentially reduce the overall surgical time and patient risk.

“It means surgeons no longer have to stand in uncomfortable positions for long periods of time that can put incredible strain on their bodies. This will help decrease fatigue and possible neck injury that could result from the long time spent looking down into the microscope,” Dr Smith said.

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Image (L to R): Dr Andrew Gogos, Dr Paul Smith, Victorian Minister for Health, Mary-Anne Thomas

The exoscope’s 3D visualisation tool enables the whole surgical team, including the anaesthetist, nurses and technicians, to have the same 3D view as the surgeon, with the procedure projected onto large 4K screens in the operating theatre.

“It allows everyone in the room wearing 3D glasses to actually see what is happening inside the patient as we operate, not just rely on what we are telling them is happening,” said Dr Gogos, adding that it is also a handy educational tool for students and those training to be surgeons.

Future possibilities

The exoscope’s innovative technology could next be used by the team to get off-site medical opinions during surgery.

“If a complication arises while operating and the surgeons needs a second set of eyes, the 3D information could be viewed by another surgeon off-site while the procedure is taking place. They would be able to provide immediate feedback based on what is actually happening. It’s quite a unique approach,” said Dr Smith.

“Although we are not doing this yet, it is something we will consider exploring in the future.”

The strength of our community’s heart

Generous donations in the amount of $170,000 was raised by St Vincent’s Foundation towards the commissioning of the new exoscope.

“It is incredibly important having this kind of support from the community, and their interest in helping us make a difference to the lives of patients is so meaningful,” said Dr Smith.

The exoscope is currently being used for neurosurgery at St Vincent’s but there is potential for it to be applied to other surgical disciplines down the track.