MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — It’s a never-before seen view into the brain, giving surgeons and patients a detailed look into where tumors and spine malformations are and the best ways to approach them for treatment.

Dr. Jonathan H. Sherman is the Director of Surgical Neuro-Oncology at WVU Medicine Berkeley Medical Center.  “The system that we have allows us to reconstruct the highways in the brain. Those are the important connections from one part of the brain to the other. We can relate those highways to the critical tumor or the other thing we need to remove. Sometimes it’s an aneurysm that we need to clip that might have bled. Sometimes it’s a tumor, sometimes it’s a stroke that we need to deal with.”

The Eastern Panhandle location recently became the first hospital in West Virginia to acquire Surgical Theater’s Precision Virtual Reality® platform for neurological surgery. That means Berkeley Medical Center is among fewer than 10 percent of facilities in the country that have the system.

The system uses “a reconstructed, 360°VR model based on the patient’s CT and MRI scans” to create an in-depth picture of the brain that can be customized so the surgeon can pinpoint where a tumor might be and which path through blood vessels is best to take. It also allows surgeons to give a picture to their patients of not only what is going on inside their head or spinal column, but also how the surgical team will tackle it.

Sherman says it’s a game changer.  “Better patient engagement so they can better understand what they’re dealing with and why they have the symptoms they have – so that’s one way. And then once we’re in the operating room, not only have we planned it, we’re actually using that reconstructed image versus the traditional 2D image, and it so well correlates to the real anatomy that it makes it safer and the patients do better,” Sherman said.

Sherman says he’s been in the Eastern Panhandle since the end of August. In that time, he’s used the technology in at least 300 consultations and diagnostics. He’s used it in the OR 15 times.

Getting a clear picture of the inner workings of the brain is key, as Sherman says as much as 20 percent of patients see a doctor for something that has a neurological connection.

“Surgical Theater will allow our patients to better understand the location of their tumor and why they are having the associated symptoms,” Sherman, said. “It allows us to show patients how we are going to safely remove the tumor, plan the surgical resection using a combination of virtual and augmented reality, and then use the system in the operating room during the actual tumor resection.”

Patients can put on a Virtual Reality headset and go as deep into the image of their brain as they care to go using the technology.

Berkeley Medical Center has equipped its neurosurgeons with a dedicated virtual reality clinic room where patients can interact directly with their 360°VR models. By simply slipping on a VR headset, Precision Virtual Reality® empowers both surgeons and patients with the technological ability to walk into a 360-degree virtual reconstruction of the patient’s anatomy. When utilized during the surgical consult, this personalized, immersive VR view leads to enhanced patient experience, education, and satisfaction.

Sherman says the system will be invaluable in the training of medical students and residents.

Surgical Theater resources at Berkeley Medical Center also includes SyncAR, an augmented reality visualization hub that gives surgeons the ability to see hidden anatomical and vascular structures, pathologies, and DTI white matter tracks synchronized and aligned to the surgeon’s operative view. With SyncAR, the patient’s 360°VR model is overlaid onto the anatomy of the patient and viewed through the oculars of the microscope, allowing surgeons to never take their eyes off the patient.

The effort is part of the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI)

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