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'Canadarm' Technology Adapted For Brain Surgeons

The same technology that made the "Canadarm" a household name in space will soon be used by brain and spinal surgeons in Calgary.

Through a unique Canadian partnership, the Seaman Family MR Research Centre at the Foothills Medical Centre/University of Calgary will be home to technology already in use in three generations of space robotics.

This technology will be transformed to create neurosurgical robots that are reliable, immune to fatigue and precise to near-absolute accuracy.

"This one-of-a-kind technology will allow neurosurgeons to perform, as never before, highly intricate surgical procedures on the human brain and spinal cord," says Dr. Garnette Sutherland, professor & chief, neurosurgery, University of Calgary/Calgary Health Region. "The system will provide us with unprecedented accuracy and dexterity."

The technology, when coupled with the only mobile intra-operative MRI in the world, will give surgeons real-time imaging data throughout a procedure. For patients, this will mean optimal neurosurgical treatments and outcomes.

"After 23 years of developing exceptionally successful technology in space, we are now able to bring our extensive knowledge back to earth and into the operating room," says Dave Caddey, executive vice president and general manager of MDA's Space Missions Group, the company that is building the new surgical robot. "The ultimate goal of this unique partnership is to develop a robotic system to enhance surgery in hospitals throughout the world."

"This remarkable initiative brings together physicians, industry, scientists, private donors and government to design and build superior surgical equipment right here in Canada and revolutionize neurological surgery around the world," says Stephen Owen, Secretary of State (Western Economic Diversification) (Indian Affairs and Northern Development). "Not only will it save lives and improve patient care, but it will provide a successful and significant contribution to the economy and innovation agenda across the nation."

"Investments like this translate into better surgeries and faster recoveries for patients," says Sutherland. "This also makes Canada a leader in this rapidly developing new field."

Partners include:

Western Economic Diversification Canada

the Seaman family, Calgary

MD Robotics, Toronto (a subsidiary of MacDonald-Dettweiler, Vancouver)

National Research Council of Canada

IMRIS Inc., Winnipeg

Seaman Family MR Research Centre (CHR/UofC)

The budget for the initial phase of designing, building and installing the new robotic surgical technology is about $12 million. In phase 2, nearly $25 million is expected to be invested in the project, including upgraded MRI equipment and expanded operating facilities.

"With the addition of robotic and surgical simulators, we will provide medical students and surgeons an outstanding learning tool that allows them to perform neurosurgical procedures in a virtual setting," adds Dr. Sutherland. "This new technology also allows us to continue attracting the best and the brightest clinical and basic scientists to the University of Calgary and the Calgary Health Region." - By Karen Thomas

[Contact: Karen Thomas]






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