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Palmyra unveils new technology

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- Harry Weiser is not your typical brain surgeon, but like most typical boys, he likes his toys -- big toys.

As head of Palmyra Medical Center's new Brain and Spinal Center, Dr. Weiser has some state-of-the art toys at his disposal.

When he returned to Albany this past summer after two years at Gulfport Memorial Hospital in Mississippi, Weiser and Palmyra CEO Mark Rader collaborated to bring to southwest Georgia something the region severely lacked -- a world-class neurological facility.

But to achieve that goal, Weiser and Rader needed a big toy, and they got it in the form of the Stryker Navigation Suite -- a new computer-assisted surgical technology. The $1.5 million suite is the only one of its kind in the state and is one of just 30 nationwide.

"I love my toys and this is a great one," Weiser said. "Now people don't have to leave town anymore for brain surgery. Think of this system as a global positioning system for the brain. This technology is accurate to one millimeter. It is very safe. We need this new technology in south Georgia and no one else in the state has it.

"We are very fortunate to have it at our disposal."

The computer-assisted technology, called frameless stereotaxic brain surgery, begins with CT or MRI brain scans that show the patient's brain anatomy and reveals the location and extent of the abnormality.

Scans are then loaded into a workstation computer that creates a virtual 3-D model of the patient's head. The physician then applies a flexible circuitboard mask to the patient's face so the surgeon can identify "landmarks" that are registered with the patient's real anatomy and wirelessly transmitted to the work station.

The surgeon can then bring up a 3-D image of the head on two overhead monitors and a 47-inch HD Plasma montor mounted on a wall to determine the size of the incision and angle of depth into the brain.

During surgery, an infrared camera communicates with sensors affixed to the patient and instruments, with the tracking software continuously calculating and displaying the location of the surgical instruments relative to the patient's anatomy.

"When we put the CT and MRI together with the registration of the face it provides us with a virtual roadmap through the head," Weiser said. "The potential benefits to the patient are numerous. They include tumor removal, brain biopsies that are conducted with a calculated trajectory and depth, smaller surgical wounds, reduced trauma to the adjacent healthy tissue and reduced complication rates.

"This technology may lessen patient morbidity, shorten hospitalization, decrease the need for intensive care and shorten recovery time. All the while potentially contributing to a reduction in cost."

Weiser, a native of Lexington, KY, said that the new technology is state-of-the-art and is the most advanced neurological tool available, but is not just limited to the brain.

"The overall benefits of the navigation system can also be used in ENT and orthopedic spine surgeries," he said.

Dr. Chris Mann, and ENT surgeon has utilized the navigation system and is well aware of the benefits it offers.

"There are cases where having this computer-assisted technology will be very valuable." Mann said. "The system is great for complex sinus procedures where having a precise map of the patient's anatomy is a tremendous asset."