- By DeeDee Stiepan
Tracking brain function during surgery using a new tool
Mayo Clinic uses innovative technology to map patients' cognitive functions during awake brain surgeries. When surgery is performed to remove a tumor, different techniques are used to help surgeons map out the brain so they can avoid the locations of important functions, such as movement, language and speech. The latest tool is NeuroMapper, a tablet-based testing platform developed by David Sabsevitz, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic neuropsychologist.
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"We wake up some of our patients during surgery, and we use different techniques to try to map out the brain and figure out where important functions are," says Dr. Sabsevitz.
Through his experience in brain mapping during awake brain surgeries, Dr. Sabsevitz realized there were limitations in how he could interact with and test patients in the operating room.
"I remember coming down from a surgery and thinking: 'Wow, you know, we can do so much better. We need to innovate. We need to push forward.' And that's where the idea of developing NeuroMapper came from."
The NeuroMapper tablet contains tests that look at language, memory, high-level problem-solving, attention and concentration.
"We can deliver these different tests to a patient during surgery as we're mapping (the brain), and the platform will keep track of how well the patient's doing," says Dr. Sabsevitz. "The platform will also measure very precise things, such as how long it takes a patient to respond to an item, so if we see the patient slowing down or making more errors, that's important clinical information."
And that's information that couldn't be captured prior to NeuroMapper.
"What I found through doing hundreds of cases is that we map a lot more efficiently (using NeuroMapper). We can test different functions quicker and reduce the overall time of the surgeries," says Dr. Sabsevitz. "What the surgeons have told me is, as they're getting constant feedback throughout the surgery, they can push their surgical borders more aggressively because they know the patient's doing well."
NeuroMapper has been used in more than 200 surgeries at Mayo Clinic in Florida.
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