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Palmyra Medical Center rolls out surgical navigation system

Neurosurgeon Dr. Harry Weiser, left, gives Dr. John Bagnato a tour the new state-of-the-art Navigation Suite at Palmyra Medical Center during Tuesday's ribbon cutting ceremony. This system, the first in Georgia and one of 30 nationwide, is considered the most advanced for navigation and endoscopic surgery.

Neurosurgeon Dr. Harry Weiser, left, gives Dr. John Bagnato a tour the new state-of-the-art Navigation Suite at Palmyra Medical Center during Tuesday's ribbon cutting ceremony. This system, the first in Georgia and one of 30 nationwide, is considered the most advanced for navigation and endoscopic surgery.

ALBANY, Ga. -- Palmyra Medical Center has taken another step forward in its efforts to invest in the latest health care technology.

Beginning today, the hospital will be using a Stryker navigation suite in one of its operating rooms.

"It's a great leap forward in technology," said Shy Donaldson, communications representative with Stryker. "It's great for patient outcomes, and it makes the job easier for doctors and nurses."

The system allows for computer-assisted technology for neurological, ear-nose-and-throat, general, orthopedic and spinal surgery. It is the most advanced system available for navigation and endoscopic surgery, officials said.

For neurosurgery, it uses infrared cameras and instruments along with tracking software to guide surgeons and their instruments through the anatomy of the brain.

Essentially, it's like having a global positioning system in the operating room.

"Using the navigation system will (result) in much better accuracy," explained Joshua Underwood, sales representative for Stryker.

Computer-assisted neurological 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 loaded into a workstation computer that creates a virtual 3-D model of the patient's head. From there, neurosurgeons can identify "landmarks" that can be registered with the patient's real anatomy.

At that point, a determination is made about the size of the incision and the angle depth of entry into the brain.

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

"Palmyra is always making an attempt to stay cutting-edge," said Mark Rader, the hospital's CEO.

Officials say this system is the first of its kind in Georgia. There are only 30 such units in the United States.

"The biggest thing is that people won't have to leave Albany," said Dr. Harry Weiser, a neurosurgeon with Palmyra Brain and Spine Center. "It increases safety and accuracy, and with less guesswork, it will decrease patient stays.

"I'm very excited about this; it's cutting-edge. It's a great thing to have."

At this time, the system is being utilized in only one of Palmyra's operating rooms. A second system may be installed in the coming months.

"Other hospitals (that have used the system) usually ask for a second unit in six months," Weiser said. "In six to 12 months, we may have another.

"Doctors love (new) technology. Once (physicians) realize its full potential, there will be a lot of demand."