Washington: A new research has revealed that the brain surgery through the cheek can make the treatment of severe epilepsy less invasive and dangerous.
Currently neuroscientists treat epilepsy by drilling through the skull deep into the brain to destroy the small area where the seizures originate, which has a long recovery period.
A team of Vanderbilt engineers, five years ago, decided to address epileptic seizures in a less invasive way and because the area of the brain involved is the hippocampus, which is located at the bottom of the brain, they could develop a robotic device that pokes through the cheek and enters the brain from underneath which avoids having to drill through the skull and is much closer to the target area.
To do so, however, meant developing a shape-memory alloy needle that can be precisely steered along a curving path and a robotic platform that can operate inside the powerful magnetic field created by an MRI scanner.
The researchers have developed a working prototype and the business end of the device is a 1.14 mm nickel-titanium needle that operates like a mechanical pencil, with concentric tubes, some of which are curved, that allow the tip to follow a curved path into the brain (unlike many common metals, nickel-titanium is compatible with MRIs) and using compressed air, a robotic platform controllably steers and advances the needle segments a millimeter at a time.
Researcher Joseph Neimat said that to have a system with a curved needle and unlimited access would make surgeries minimally invasive and they could do a dramatic surgery with nothing more than a needle stick to the cheek.
The engineers have designed the system so that much of it can be made using 3-D printing in order to keep the price low.