A New Tool Lets Brain Surgeons See What They're Doing

Caroline Winter | Businessweek.com | August 28, 2013

Doing almost anything with your eyes closed is usually pretty hard. Now consider that until recently neurosurgeons performed operations without being able to see their patients’ brains. Most still do, but now a Memphis (Tenn.)-based company called MRI Interventions (MRIC) is working to end the “poke and hope” practice. Its technology, ClearPoint, provides real-time brain imaging and step-by-step guidance and is already in use in 21 U.S. hospitals, including the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Typically, brain surgery goes something like this: Neurosurgeons obtain images of a patient’s brain, locate the problem area, and plan how best to access it. Then they cut away a portion of the skull and go to work. “The worst thing is the patients often have to be awake during these brain surgeries so they can provide feedback,” says Kim Jenkins, chief executive officer of MRI Interventions. “It’s not painful, but it’s still very disturbing—and these procedures can go on for six, eight hours.”

When neurosurgeons use the ClearPoint system, and can actually see what they’re doing, Jenkins says operation times are cut by as much as two-thirds, and patients don’t have to remain conscious.