Dr. Howard Ginsberg, a neurosurgeon at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, went to Nuremberg, Germany to check out a machine he was told about by a surgical equipment sales representative. The machine turned out to be the Ziehm 3D intraoperative scanner. “It’s a special type of X-ray machine that works in concert with our navigation computer, so it basically does a CT scan in the operating room and then sends that CT scan directly to the navigation machine which allows us to do the surgery,” Ginsberg said. He was so impressed that he brought the system back to Canada. Other companies have developed similar equipment, including the Stryker Navigation System and Stealth, all navigation systems using GPS technology for the operating room.
Used in conjunction with a GPS enabled navigation system, the scanner allows the surgeon to perform surgery without having to open the patient up or expose any unnecessary body parts. The surgeon’s tools are equipped with tracking devices that are monitored and converted to a virtual image on a screen; the doctor can see exactly where each tool is going without actually having to look at the patient. The precision of the equipment is incredible, within .5 mm, and produces a crystal clear image for the doctors to work by; the crucial part is setting the system up correctly.
The benefits for the patient are inestimable. With less cutting and more precise procedures, recovery time is greatly reduced with fewer chances for infection. Because the scanner is connected to the GPS navigation system, there is less need for x-rays, MRIs, and CAT scans during a procedure to check for accuracy, which means less exposure to radiation for the patient as well as the surgical team.
Thousands of patients around the world have been helped by GPS technology in the operating room; the technology is being used in orthopedic surgery, brain surgery, and even dental surgery with greater precision and greater success than traditional methods. Though the start-up costs are high, anywhere from .5 million to 1.5 million for the basic machine all the way up to a fully-equipped suite, the overall benefits to patient healthcare more than cover the price.