The very latest digital technology is now transforming the treatment of children needing brain surgery.

Almost a decade ago, Oxford Hospitals Charity funded our Trust’s first Neuronavigation Image Guidance System for the paediatric neurosurgery team, affectionately referred to as a ‘brain satnav’.

At the time, it revolutionised the way brain surgery on children was performed in our hospitals, allowing surgeons to digitally track their route through the brain with pinpoint accuracy, determining the safest route through delicate brain tissue to the tumour.

Since it was purchased, many hundreds of procedures have taken place, all aided by this revolutionary equipment. Surgeons told us that it helped them save children’s sight, function and even their lives.

But medical technology moves fast, so recently the neurology team successfully applied to the charity for replacement equipment, to build on the success of the old model, whilst also introducing many impressive new features.

Thanks to the generosity of donors, Oxford Hospitals Charity has been able to fund this latest innovative medical equipment which will be used in over 75 operations on children with brain tumours every year.

Whilst the paediatric neurosurgeons are exceptionally skilled, the accuracy required to locate, reach and remove a tumour from a child’s brain is extremely complex.

By using this new improved neuro-navigation system, the team has an even better chance of removing more of the tumour and causing less damage to the brain, therefore minimising the risk of long-term complications. This gives our young patients the best possible opportunity for a normal adult life.

Speaking after the funding was announced, Mr Amedeo Calisto, Consultant Paediatric Neurosurgeon and Clinical Lead said,

 ‘This is marvellous news. We are extremely grateful to Oxford Hospitals Charity and their wonderful donors' big-hearted benevolence for funding this important piece of equipment.

‘They have irreversibly shaped the future of paediatric neurosurgery in Thames Valley by empowering the surgeons with the state-of-the-art electronic equipment.

‘This will allow us to push the boundaries of what currently achievable, in this field, and develop further innovative ways to treat rare and deadly brain conditions.

‘The new model will not only continue to deliver transformative outcomes for patients but will provide even more accuracy and significantly improved features compared with its predecessor.

'It is truly the cutting edge of modern technology, fully integrable with other equipment in the operating theatre, including the Brainlab virtual reality headsets, also funded by Oxford Hospitals Charity.

‘This is a huge step forward for our service and presents an incredible opportunity to once again improve the treatment and long-term outcomes for our young patients.

Funding of £300,000 for the project allowed for the inclusion of a fully integrated ultrasound module with the new system, used to overlay current and previous brain images.  

This extra module allows the surgeon to get real time imaging updates during a procedure which are displayed by the brain sat-nav to ensure even greater accuracy. This is particularly important when checking that every part of the tumour has been successfully removed.

Without the ultrasound module, the operation would need to end, and the child sent for an MRI. If any part of the tumour does remain then the child will need to undergo a second operation which is never ideal. By using the ultrasound, the surgeon can ensure that the tumour is completely removed first time and give the patient the best possible outcome

Surgeons started operating with the new equipment in October 2022 and are already delighted with the results.

Tamsin Rawlings, Major Gifts Manager at Oxford Hospitals Charity commented, ‘We are so grateful to the generous donors who helped fund this project. This latest equipment is considered the gold standard of care for patients and the difference it will make to families is simply immeasurable.’

‘In addition the decreased risk of neurological complications by using this equipment could also mean fewer long term cost implications to both the NHS and wider social care systems.’

Equipment like this transforms lives. If you would like to help us do more please get in touch at [email protected] or simply make a donation today

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