Henry Ford Health System in Detroit is buying medical imaging technology that its chair of neurosurgery calls a significant game-changer that makes complex brain surgeries significantly safer, shorter and less costly.

“It’s optics are so spectacular, we may eventually be able to replace the microscope,” says Steven Kalkanis, M.D. The company is BrightMatter, which worked with Henry Ford and Aurora Healthcare in Milwaukee, among others, as the imaging and robotic positioning system has been developed.

The software that examines MRI images to support surgical planning and then guides the actual procedure is so next-generation that a physician can see a red blood cell moving through an artery in the brain, according to Kalkanis. “The level of detail allows us to think of surgery and visualize the brain in an entirely new way.” Incisions, for example, are smaller because surgeons know precisely where they are going before the first incision is made.

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Sensory capabilities enable the system to know where a surgeon’s hand and tool are to a degree previously not available, and to warn if a surgeon is getting too close to an area that should be avoided, Kalkanis says. Navigation also is aided by a large 3-D magnification screen. In short, he adds, the technology has converted a significant number of cases that used to be deemed inoperable to surgical options.

Making a business case for buying BrightMatter is a very doable proposition, Kalkanis contends. Neurosurgery has a small number of cases and surgeons relative to other surgical specialties, but the cases are complex and can only be done by a small number of hospitals in any given region, so a hospital can use the new technology to differentiate itself. Further, neurosurgery may be small, but it has a big impact on a hospital’s reputation and bottom line.

For instance, the product can save 35 to 45 minutes per case, lowering overhead costs, and the ability to convert cases thought to be inoperable to operable benefits more patients while bringing in more revenue. A portion of Henry Ford’s purchase of BrightMatter came through philanthropic foundations.

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