Smart Needle: Detects Blood Vessels During Brain Surgery

Researchers at The University of Adelaide in Southern Australia have recently developed smart needle technology jointly with the University of Western Australia and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital. In a normal needle biopsy, a ruptured or damaged blood vessel could be fatal for the patient.The “smart needle” allows the detection of blood vessels during brain surgery.The smart computer system automatically detects blood vessels and alerts the surgeons when the needle approaches them.

“It’s like a tiny flashlight that allows the surgeon to see into the brain.”

– Professor Robert McLaughlin, Chair of Biophotonics, Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics, at the University of Adelaide.

The smart needle is a normal brain biopsy needle outfitted with a tiny imaging probe no bigger than the width of a human hair. The infrared light shone by the tiny imaging probe works in tandem with the computer system to provide early warning for nearby blood vessels.

Pilot trials have been performed at the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Western Australia on 12 patients in the last six months. Formal clinical trials of the smart needle are expected to begin in 2018. Discussions are underway to ultimately manufacture the smart needles in Australia.

“It’s an ideal technology to commercialize in Australia. We have the engineering expertise and world-class hospitals here, and enthusiasm from the surgeons,” says Professor McLaughlin.

The smart needle was partially funded by the Australian Research Council, the National Health and Medical Research Council and the South Australian Government. This was part of a larger initiative by the Australian Turnbull Government who provided $23 million through the year 2021 towards medical discoveries through the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics.

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