Smart Needles

A smart needle is embedded with a camera to help doctors perform safer brain surgery. The device was developed by the University of Adelaide researchers in South Australia and uses a very tiny camera to identify at-risk blood vessels. The probe is the size of a human hair and uses an infrared light to look through the brain.

The probe uses the Internet of Things to send the information to a computer in real-time that alerts doctors of any abnormalities. The University of Western Australia and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital were in collaboration for the project where a 6-month pilot trial of the smart needle was run.

Robert McLaughlin, research leader and Chair of the University of Adelaide’s Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics, said the researchers were also looking at other surgery applications for the device, including minimally invasive surgery. Surgeons previously relied on scans taken prior to surgery to avoid hitting blood vessels but the smart needle was a more accurate method that highlighted their locations in real-time.

There are approximately 256,000 cases of brain cancer a year and about 2.3% of the time you can make a significant impact that could end in a stroke or death. The smart needle would help that as it works sort of like an ultrasound but with light instead. There is also smart software that takes the picture, analyses it and then can determine if what it is seeing is a blood vessel or tissue.

There was a trial at the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital that involved 12 patients who were undergoing craniotomies. A needle with a 200-micron wide camera was successfully able to identify blood vessels during the surgery. Professor Christopher Lind said having a needle that could see blood vessels as surgeons proceed through the brain was a medical breakthrough.

This will open the way for safer surgery and allow them to do things they’ve not been able to do before. The smart needle will be ready for formal clinical trials in 2018. According to Professor McLaughlin, they hope manufacturing of the smart needles will begin within five years.

This project was partially funded by the Australian Research Council, the National Health and Medical Research Council and the South Australian Government. It’s only too bad that it takes so long to get something this promising up and operating. Just think of the lives this could save!

Why couldn’t this be used in conjunction with Naturopathic/Alternative treatment to overcome cancer by having that strong immune system?

Dr Fredda Branyon