From left, Dr. Warren Selman, Moty Avisar and Alon Geri. Photo by Keith Berr Photography
Just as pilots can use flight simulators to practice for difficult missions before setting foot in a plane, now brain surgeons can rehearse challenging microsurgical procedures before making a single incision.
Already in use at US teaching hospitals and soon to be available to practicing neurosurgeons, the Selman Surgical Rehearsal Platform (SRP) neurosurgery simulator generates 3D images from the individual patient’s standard CT and MRI scans. The lifelike preview shows how surgical instruments will interact with the patient’s tissue and how the delicate brain structures will respond.
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SRP was developed by former Israel Air Force officers Moty Avisar and Alon Geri, who know a thing or two about the life-or-death importance of practicing in a sophisticated simulated environment.
Three years in the making, the SRP was launched at the Congress of Neurological Surgeons in October 2012, where it was selected as a “new technology to watch.” Patent approvals have come through for the technique of turning static medical imagery into a dynamic model.
“The majority of translating what we knew from flight simulation to surgery was to understand more about what realism means,” says Avisar.
“In flight, it’s about the sun and the shadows of trees and mountains. In surgery, it’s more about how light reflects off tissue and how a surgeon understands depths and distances. It took us a while to understand how to translate a simulation into a realistic model. But according to surgeon feedback, we are there. They feel they are in the OR.”
The “Selman” part of the product name is after Dr. Warren Selman, chief neurosurgeon at University Hospitals Case Medical Center and chairman of neurological surgery at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio.
A patient’s medical images are turned into an interactive surgical training tool.
Selman helped to found the company Surgical Theater – based in Ohio with offices in Ramat Gan outside Tel Aviv — as a result of overhearing Avisar discussing flight simulator technology while waiting to be seated at an Ohio coffee shop. Intrigued by the possibilities in the medical field, he introduced himself and the discussion really took off.
“It’s a Midwest culture, so people talk with each other in line,” jokes Surgical Theater CEO and President Avisar, who has master’s degrees in system engineering, electrical and computer engineering and business.