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Henry Ford Hospital gets new robotic technology that allows surgery on tumors deep within the brain

(December 19, 2015) — Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit is once again redefining the dreaded medical term “inoperable” with an advanced brain surgery technology called BrightMatter.

Developed by Toronto, Ontario-based Synaptive Medical, BrightMatter offers neurosurgeons a highly detailed imaging and robotic positioning system that will help them perform the delicate brain and some spine surgeries.

Neurosurgeons at Henry Ford using BrightMatter will be able to operate on 20 to 30 cases and maybe more currently deemed inoperable, said Steven Kalkanis, M.D., Henry Ford’s chairman of neurosurgery and co-director of the Hermelin Brain Tumor Center.

Moreover, another 100 or more cases (15 percent to 20 percent) of Henry Ford’s total tumor cases located in deep and critical areas of the skull will now be candidates for the BrightMatter surgical techniques, Kalkanis said.

The bottom line, said Kalkanis, is that BrightMatter will help the neurosurgery team cut surgery time and reduce length-of-stays, which will help lower infection rates, complications and post-surgical risks.

Now, Henry Ford does “hundreds of brain tumors” each year and about 1,500 spine surgeries, Kalkanis said.

“We anticipate another 20 to 30 cases are deemed inoperable” that now will be recommended for surgery, he said.

“This is a huge benefit to patients” starting in January, when the device will become operational, he said.

While Henry Ford will be the first hospital in Michigan and one of less than a dozen hospitals in the world to offer the technology, Kalkanis said other hospitals, including the Cleveland Clinic, have ordered the device.

“This is the future of not only neurosurgery, but what technology can do for medicine,” Kalkanis said.

Other hospitals that now use Bright Matter include Aurora Healthcare in Milwaukee, Lafayette General Medical Center in Louisiana and Delray Medical Center and St. Mary’s Medical Center, both in Palm Beach, Fla.

Earlier this year, Synaptive received approval for BrightMatter by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In describing the imaging technology, Kalkanis said: “You can see an actual red blood cell travelling through an artery in the brain. The level of detail allows us to think of surgery and visualize the brain in an entirely new way.”

The technology is used to operate on brain tumors, aneurysms, vascular lesions and skull-based issues. The high-powered microscope and light source also can be used in minimally invasive spine surgery, Kalkanis said.

It works like this: Neurosurgeons manipulate a long, movable metal arm that contains a microscope and high-powered lighting system that illuminates the surgical area. The digital view enables the surgeons to more precisely guide their instruments.

BrightMatter will simplify some difficult surgical cases, he said.

“We currently expose (the brain) by removing a large plate of bone,” Kalkanis said. “By making a targeted, small or pinhole incision, (it will mean) faster healing time, decreased complications, risk and lower infection rates” and lower costs for health insurers and patients.

Of 15 neurosurgeons at Henry Ford, Kalkanis said six who work with brain tumors and cranial diseases will use the technology. Another three spine surgeons will find the technology useful, he said.

“The anesthesia staff will be trained in the use as some cases can be done awake,” he said. “It will reduce the time in surgery, which is good for the patient.”

Depending of the surgery, Kalkanis said small tumors or vascular surgery that takes 4.5 hours now can be done in 2.5 hours.

“Skull based kinds of cases, which are much more involved and can take all day, can be done in much less time,” he said.

Financial Investment

The BrightMatter technology cost Henry Ford a little more than $1 million. Annual fees to Synaptive for software updates and other technology improvements will cost another $160,000 per year, Kalkanis said.

But Henry Ford’s return on investment for the technology will be positive, he said. It will more than cover its costs for several reasons.

First, an additional 10 percent to 15 percent of patients, once deemed difficult surgical risks or inoperable because of the location of their brain tumor, will be able to be treated more effectively.

“The estimate on the net cash flow is $280,000 per year for the first four years, then in year five and beyond, after we paid our initial investment and build additional operating rooms, it will be $650,000” per year, Kalkanis said.

BrightMatter will be located in the neurosurgery area near Henry Ford’s new $6 million interoperative MRI surgery suite.

Kalkanis said BrightMatter technologies also will enable the hospital to replace its interoperative microscopes, which cost $250,000 to $300,000 each.

Founded in 1993, Henry Ford’s Hermelin Brain Tumor Center conducts research on advanced brain tumor therapies on patients from Michigan and around the world. More than 8,000 patients with brain tumors, including more than 1,400 patients with glioblastoma – the most aggressive of primary brain tumors, have been treated at the center.

For more information, visit the Hermelin Brain Tumor Center.