Robotic arm lends a helping hand in brain surgery at IU Health

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Lisa Foster of Evansville, Indiana loves being a grandmother. So when she suddenly developed some strange symptoms several months ago, she panicked.

“My legs were numb, my neck was real stiff and I had a lot of pain,” said Foster. “I looked on the internet, like everybody else does and I thought I had MS.”

Foster didn’t have MS at all. She had a benign tumor growing in the back of her head, where her brain stem met her cervical spine. It’s a difficult spot to reach in a surgical operation, but Dr. Mitesh Shah, a neurosurgeon with IU Health, was able to remove most of the tumor fairly easily in an operation March 16.

“This surgery actually took about eight hours to do, but because of the technology of the moving robotic arm into awkward positions, we’re able to do this surgery in a neutral position and with excellent visualization,” said Dr. Shah.

A microscope is the tool used to see the tumor. But in this case, it’s a digital microscope with an enhanced camera. Dr. Shah was able to see the whole surgical field in 4K on a television monitor above Lisa Foster’s head.

“The light source and the actual imaging quality are superb,” said Dr. Shah.

The key to successful brain surgery is not only dissecting the tumor, but not damaging nearby healthy brain tissue. Precision is paramount.

“We chose the goal of trying to get as much of the tumor out as possible, knowing, we didn’t want to injure some of the vital nerves of the brain stem,” said Dr. Shah.

Most of Lisa’s meningioma is gone and she will be checked regularly.

“My head’s real numb, but I don’t get headaches anymore.”

Lisa Foster’s hospital stay was one month. She had a slight setback when some cerebral spinal fluid leaked, but she’s pretty much back to normal. IU Health has had this new robotic system since September of 2016 and they use it on stroke patients with clots on the brain as well.

Click here for more information on this system.

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