Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Protecting Nerves During Surgery

Main Category: Neurology / Neuroscience NewsArticle Date: 15 Jan 2007 - 0:00 PST
An alarm tone warns the surgeon that the position of his scalpel is dangerously close to the nerve leading to the patient's vocal cords the beep tone signals excessive pressure on the nerve. Nerves are difficult to detect with the naked eye, because they have the same color and structure as connective tissue and minor blood vessels. And the risk is considerable: If, for example, the nerve serving the vocal cords is damaged during an operation on the thyroid gland, the patient might be plagued by chronic hoarseness, loss of voice or breathlessness.The new alarm system combines the skills of numerous research partners. The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT was joined by the University Hospital in Mainz and the Robert Bosch Hospital in Stuttgart, along with the companies Dr. Osypka GmbH, Reinhardt Microtech GmbH and Inomed Medizintechnik GmbH. The project was one of the winners of the 2006 innovation competition for medical engineering. Taking the example of operations on the thyroid gland and on the minor pelvis, the researchers developed the first flexible electrodes capable of continuously monitoring the nerves and warning the surgeon on time. "At present, it is not possible to verify until after surgery whether the patient's nerves are still responding," says IBMT project manager Klaus Peter Koch. "The operating zone is too narrow to allow continuous use of conventional electrodes."
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