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Canadian-made robot helps remove brain tumour

A team of Calgary surgeons has successfully used a robot to remove a tumour from a young woman's brain.

The surgical robotic system, called NeuroArm, helped surgeons remove the tumour from 21-year-old Paige Nickason.

"I had to have the tumour removed anyway so I was happy to help by being a part of this historical surgery," Nickason said in a statement from her hospital room less then 24 hours after her May 12 operation.

The system was developed by a team of scientists led by Dr. Garnette Sutherland, a neurosurgeon with Calgary Health Region and a professor of neurosurgery in the faculty of medicine at the University of Calgary.

The machine is being dubbed the world's first MRI-compatible robot that is able to perform both surgery and biopsies that are less invasive for patients.

"This is a turning point in the performance and teaching of neurosurgery," Sutherland said in a statement.

"NeuroArm will improve surgical outcomes as it is less invasive and more delicate in its touch."

The robot is controlled by a surgeon via computer and works in tandem with what the team has dubbed intraoperative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This allows the MRI to enter the operating room on command and provide images of the surgery without putting the patient in danger.

The research team says that NeuroArm will revolutionize all types of surgery because, for example, it is not susceptible to the types of limitations that affect a surgeon's work, such as hand tremors.

"NeuroArm allows us to harness the capabilities and advantages of both human and machine," Alex Greer, the robotics engineer, said in a statement.

"By providing updated imaging and navigation, the surgeon has the tools to better plan and execute complex neurosurgical procedures."

The development has intrigued many in the medical community.

"For many years now we have been hoping that robotics might have a place in neurosurgery," Dr. Peter Black, a neurosurgery professor at Harvard Medical School, said in a statement.

"We look forward with great excitement to the adoption of this technology at other centres."

The robot was designed and built with MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, which also built Canadarm and Canadarm2, the robotic arm technology that supports astronauts during space walks.


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