Robotic Microscope Used for Brain Surgery

The robotic technology was originally used on the International Space Station. 

Robotic technology originally used on the International Space Station has been applied by Synaptive Medical Inc. to the development of a fully-automated, robotic digital microscope for use in perform brain surgery. The Modus V™ microscope is based on Canadarm technology used by NASA to deploy, capture and repair satellites in space. 

The robotic technology provides increased precision to brain surgeons, potentially allowing for the use of less-invasive procedures, more rapid recovery and reduced complications, according to Dr. Michael Schulder, head of the Synaptive Technology project at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, NY and Director of the Brain Tumor Center at Northwell Health, which is a not-for-profit healthcare network.

He noted that “The technology allows for increased surgical efficiency through hands-free control, better ergonomics during brain surgery and greater versatility in the operating room. The digital microscope’s high-definition images offer a wider view of the surgical field and more enhanced images, improving the neurosurgeon’s ability to perform even the most complex brain surgery.”

Dr. Henry Woo, who performed the first surgery using the Synaptive Modus V to remove a meningioma, added that the robotic system “incorporates multiple technologies including digital operative microscopy and robotics into a single seamless integrated platform” that “allows surgeons to more efficiently utilize and incorporate preoperative imaging modalities during procedures that will hopefully shorten procedure times and improve outcomes.”

The automated robotics and hands-free positioning of the Modus V combine with its tracked instrumentation allow for visualization angles that could not be easily achieved without stopping and repositioning traditional imaging instruments. The system is also able to constantly refocus as the instrument is moved by the surgeon.

During the meningioma surgery, Dr. Woo was able to see around a bony edge to better visualize the tumor’s attachment to the dura and sagittal sinus at an angle that would have been impossible with a standard surgical microscope. 

The Modus V comes with the Synaptive’s BrightMatter™ software platform, which displays automated, whole brain tractography, mapping out the patient’s fiber tracts in the brain using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI, according to the company. This data is integrated into the intraoperative navigation screen, with the images presented next to the digital microscope’s optical image in real time. By looking at both sets of information, it is possible for surgeons to select the operative path that will result in the least damage to nearby healthy tissue.

“The Synaptive Modus V represents the next step in the evolution of neurosurgical technology that allows improved access and increased versatility for a wide variety of neurosurgical procedures, including patients with brain tumors, cerebrovascular conditions and many disorders of the spine as well,” said Dr. Schulder. “The combination of maximal information of brain function, as well as improved intraoperative visualization, has the potential to make brain surgery as safe and as effective as possible.”


Emilie Branch

Emilie is responsible for strategic content development based on scientific areas of specialty for Nice Insight research articles and for assisting client content development across a range of industry channels. Prior to joining Nice Insight, Emilie worked at a strategy-based consulting firm focused on consumer ethnographic research. She also has experience as a contributing editor, and has worked as a freelance writer for a host of news and trends-related publications