Brain surgery could become a lot safer after researchers at the University of Adelaide developed a new, high-tech needle which will help surgeons avoid "at-risk" blood vessels.
The breakthrough, dubbed the "smart needle", encases a tiny imaging probe within a brain biopsy needle, allowing surgeons to see dangerous blood vessels before they can be struck.
In a statement released late Friday, Professor Robert McLaughlin from the University of Adelaide said the needle would allow surgeons to focus more on performing the surgery and less on avoiding potentially-fatal obstacles.
"We call it a smart needle. It contains a tiny fiber-optic camera, the size of a human hair, shining infrared light to see the vessels before the needle can damage them," McLaughlin said.
"And what's really exciting is the computer smarts behind this so that the computer itself recognizes the blood vessel and alerts the surgeon."
Pilot trials of the smart needle have been happening for six months, with the help of federal government assistance. Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham said the development could revolutionize the standards of brain surgery safety around the world.
"This smart biopsy device is an outstanding example of how our investment in research can translate into real benefits for industries and ultimately for Australians," Birmingham said in the statement.
"Professor McLaughlin and (neurosurgeon Professor Christopher) Lind are improving lives and are exemplars of Australian ingenuity who are leading the world as innovators in medical technology," said Birmingham.
"This truly transformational technology will make brain surgery safer."
Meanwhile Lind said the breakthrough in safety would "revolutionize" neurosurgery in the future.
"To have a tool that can see blood vessels as we proceed through the brain would revolutionize neurosurgery," Lind said in the statement.
"It will open the way for safer surgery, allowing us to do things we've not been able to do before."
According to the university, the smart needle will be ready for clinical trials in 2018.