Equipment at VA allows for more precise surgeries

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 2, 2014

Doing endoscopic surgery can be tedious work — performing surgery in small spaces with only a camera as a guide for the surgeon. Surgeons at the W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center now have a new tool that makes navigating during endoscopic sinus surgeries more precise.
The medical center recently added new image guided surgery equipment from BrainLab, a company that makes products that revolve around less invasive image-guided surgery technology. The equipment is being used to perform a variety of nasal and sinus surgeries at the Salisbury VA Medical Center to include treating sinus disease, and removing benign nasal tumors and nasal polyps.
Dr. Roger Cole, staff otolaryngologist, says it adds an additional margin of safety and provides more precision during surgical procedures.
“This system allows us to navigate through the sinuses as we are doing surgery to remove diseased tissue and things along those lines,” he said. “The advantage is that it lets us do more complicated procedures where the traditional surgical landmarks are distorted with an increased margin of safety. With the brain and the eyes being so close to the nasal sinuses, it helps reassure where you are in relation to those vital structures. It gives the surgeon another piece of data to do their job.”
Judy Pennington, perioperative program nurse manager, agreed that having one more layer of safety in taking care of patients is always a good thing.
“I think that the new Brainlab equipment provides a safer way of performing sinus surgery, especially for the veteran that has had this surgery done previously,” she said. “The surgeon is provided with a full view of the patient’s sinus cavities and the position of instruments inserted to perform the surgery.”
Cole said the new equipment doesn’t replace the use of endoscopes, but works in concert with them by using a system of sensors and infrared cameras to let doctors know exactly where their instruments are during endoscopic surgery procedures.
“Basically, a patient gets a CT scan done, and then the data from that CT scan is uploaded into a computer. The computer then uses infrared cameras from the system and reflectors that are attached to the instruments we use,” he explained. “Based on where those reflectors are in relation to the tip of the instrument, we can correlate that with the CT images in real time. So it basically allows us to triangulate where the tip of our instruments are — not only can we visually see where it is by looking at the camera and the monitor, but we can see radiographically where it is in relation to organs next to the sinuses.”
Pennington said adding new equipment like this to the hospital’s capabilities shows that patient safety is the top priority at the Salisbury VA Medical Center.
“The acquisition of this equipment demonstrates a commitment to our veterans in that it provides them with the safest and most technologically advanced way to perform sinus surgery,” she said.
Cole said the Brainlab equipment also has the capability to be useful in spine surgery, orthopedic surgery, and can be adapted to neurosurgery if the Salisbury Medical Center were to offer those procedures in the future.