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Scientists tested a special imaging needle that makes brain biopsies much safer (Video)

Posted December 28, 2018

Taking a look into a human brain is not easy. Sure there are many imaging techniques and they are quite effective, but taking samples is a whole new story. Biopsies are common procedures in this case. A small long needle is inserted into the brain in order to diagnose tumours or some other diseases. However, there is always a risk of a brain bleed. Now clinicians led by the University of Adelaide put a special ‘imaging needle’ through some tests and revealed its potential.

Brain biopsies are minimally invasive, but can be risky due to small blood vessels that can be easily damaged producing brain bleed. Image credit: myself via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Inserting surgical instruments into someone’s brain is not a small feat. In fact, it is as dangerous as it sounds, even though accidents and complications are rather rare. This novel ‘imaging needle’ is aiming to reduce the risk of dangerous brain bleeds in patients undergoing brain biopsy. Scientists say that this tiny little imaging needle can detect blood vessels with 91.2 % sensitivity and 97.7% specificity. This allows navigating around these blood vessels without touching or damaging them.

In the core of this device there is a tiny fibre-optic camera, hidden in a regular brain biopsy needle. While being extremely small, it still allows brain surgeons to detect blood vessels that should be avoided when performing biopsy. This allows reducing the risk of causing brain bleeds. Of course, that tiny fibre optic camera doesn’t really allow surgeon to take a look into the patient’s brain – that is not its purpose. Instead this human hair-sized camera shines infrared light onto the brain tissue. Then computer interprets the reflections to determine, where blood vessels are, and alerts the surgeon. Scientists already tested this novel device with 11 patients and confirmed its accuracy.

Initial tests were very successful and proved that such a imaging needle is a viable tool. Professor Robert McLaughlin, one of the scientists behind this project, said: “These patients were undergoing other types of neurosurgery, and consented to allow us to safely test how well the imaging needle was able to detect blood vessels during surgery. This is the first reported use of such a probe in the human brain during live surgery, and is the first step in the long process required to bring new tools like this into clinical practice”. Scientists say that this device could be put into clinical use in relatively near future, although the process of development and approval is lengthy.

Regardless of the time scale, imaging needle could become a very useful tool for biopsies. Brain bleeds can be very dangerous and it is always better to avoid them completely. Although brain biopsy is minimally invasive procedure, it should also be as safe as possible.


Source: University of Adelaide

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