QUEBEC — In a Canadian first, a Quebec neurosurgeon recently managed to completely remove a brain tumour from a patient using a robotic arm and 3D magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
The groundbreaking surgery was performed last fall by Dr. David Fortin at Sherbrooke's University Hospital (CHUS). Fortin said Monday he waited until now to make the surgery public to make sure the patient had fully recovered.
He has operated since on four other patients with the robotic surgical arm, known as Rosa and produced by the French company Medtech.
"This acts as a third arm, a very precise and reliable one, for the neurosurgeon," said Fortin in a telephone interview from Sherbrooke.
The robotic arm helps ensure the safety of prolonged movements during the surgery, thus making it more efficient than a human arm that suffers from fatigue, Fortin noted. He added the robotic arm is easy to use and is also less invasive for the patient.
"Technologies like the robotic arm help improve the quantity of tumour we can extract while preserving the patient's quality of life after the surgery," Fortin said.
Fortin used the robotic arm last fall along with tri-dimensional MRI that generates images showing the detailed circuitry of the brain. This allowed the surgeon to have real-time information about the brain.
Fortin also added the patient was woken up at one point during the surgery to stimulate the brain.
"It's the combination of those three techniques that allowed us to completely remove the tumour and made the surgery unique," he said, noting a "classic" surgery would have only allowed the surgeon to remove half of the tumour for that first patient.
Fortin said this technology is part of a new tailored therapy approach and will allow surgeons to get to tumours that previously were believed to be inoperable.
Sherbrooke is the second hospital in North America to use the Rosa technology, after a hospital in Cleveland, Ohio.
Fortin said he is testing the robotic arm, worth $600,000, and will conduct a series of 15 operations with it before next fall. Depending on the results, Fortin and the hospital will decide whether it the facility buys the new technology.
Fortin heads the neuro-oncology clinic at Sherbrooke's CHUS and holds the Canadian Chair for the Treatment of Brain Cancer. His research aims to prolong the lives of people with this type of incurable cancer.
He has developed a unique technique to administer cancer-fighting medications that are able to reach the brain tumour in sufficient quantities to be effective.
Each year, some 2,500 Canadians are diagnosed with brain cancer, a highly aggressive form of cancer.
.....Wild stuff,& any breakthrough in beating cancer is more than welcome,as it claims lots of people each day of the year.Maybe a brighter future is coming in taming the cancer beast in our lifetime ?