A new surgical tool called Chimaera guides a surgeon during operations to implant neurostimulation devices with less risk to the patient. Matthew Stock reports.
A new prototype surgical device - called Chimaera - aims to put wireless pain management into patients' hands. It's designed to quickly and safely deliver neurostimulation devices into the human body. These put an electrical signal directly into target nerves, altering brain activity to, in effect, shut off pain. Accessing the correct nerve safely - which might be deep in the face or behind an eye-socket - has been the biggest challenge. Simon Karger from developers Cambridge Consultants says Chimarea could eventually make neurostimulation available to many more patients. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SIMON KARGER, HEAD OF SURGICAL AND INTERVENTIONAL PRODUCTS AT CAMBRIDGE CONSULTANTS, SAYING: "We've combined smart sensing technology, pre-operative planning, we've taken small implant form-factors; and we've combined both implant delivery with surgical tool to provide a completely connected, unified surgical system that has the potential to take a surgery that maybe only four or five people in the world can carry out today and make it accessible to a broad cross-section of general surgeons." A preoperative CT scan creates a 3D X-ray for surgeons to map out the best path to a nerve. Chimaera's sensing technology guides the surgeon to the precise location, warning of any critical structures not picked up in the CT scan. It can be used with wearable devices such as Google glass, meaning surgeons can literally 'see' where they are during an operation. Once the target nerve has been reached, Chimaera alerts the surgeon and the implant is deployed down the device. Karger says devices like this could pave the way for wireless pain management for patients using, for example, their mobile phone. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SIMON KARGER, HEAD OF SURGICAL AND INTERVENTIONAL PRODUCTS AT CAMBRIDGE CONSULTANTS, SAYING: "Imagine a migraine sufferer who literally as they feel the onset of their migraine, can reach for their cell phone and dial-down the pain. That is a life-changing therapy for that patient. And crucially what it does is it changes that patient from a patient into a consumer; they don't need to feel like a patient anymore." The developers say Chimaera is the equivalent of a 'concept car' that demonstrates their vision for the next generation of surgery. They are now looking for partners to help turn it into a viable medical device, leading to clinical trials.