Medical Simulation at Case University for Brain Surgeons
February 6, 2013 by Deanna Pogorelc
Moty Avisar and Alon Geri have backgrounds in flight simulation. Dr. Warren Selman is neurosurgeon-in-chief at University Hospitals in Cleveland. Together, the three top minds behind Surgical Theater have developed a surgery rehearsal platform on which surgeons can practice the procedure they are about to perform on a specific patient and use a digital replica of the patient’s specific anatomy.
The Surgical Theater software takes MRIs and CT scans and constructs them into digital, interactive 3-D models with life-like tissue reaction. It’s run on the Surgery Rehearsal Platform, which includes models of real surgery tools that surgeons use to interact with the software.
With a focus on providing surgeons a way to practice high-risk, open surgeries (rather than endoscopic procedures), Surgical Theater’s first commercial product is a simulation for surgery to treat brain aneurysms. That module is already up and running at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, and Avisar said the team is anticipating U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance to market the product sometime in the next few weeks.
They’ve also presented the technology at some of the top neurosurgery hospitals in the country and hope to have 20 stations installed by the end of the year, he said.
The hardware and software for one model costs about $250,000, Avisar said, with additional models running about $50,000, so it’s quite an investment for a hospital. But to demonstrate that it improves outcomes, Surgical Theater is trying the brain aneurysm platform in a clinical study at Case that will measure the time it takes for surgeons to perform operations after using the platform, and the outcomes associated with those procedures.
“Simulation is the means, but the goal is better clinical outcome,” Avisar emphasized.
A soon-to-be-released second product will be a rehearsal platform for brain tumor surgeries, he added.
Medical simulation for training has come a long way over the past two decades and is now a market space that includes high-tech mannequins, computer modules for specific surgery subtypes and apps for mobile devices. There are even a few other companies doing work closely related to Surgical Theater’s; ImmersiveTouch offers 3-D neurosurgery platforms, and fellow Cleveland company Simbionix also specializes in patient-specific simulation.
But the Surgical Theater team is applying its knowledge and skills to several other projects in development too. One is a hands-free application for the operating room that uses sensors and cameras to allow a surgeon to go back and forth between a computer and a patient during surgery without leaving the head of the table or touching anything. Avisar said he hopes to have an application in to the FDA for clearance of that product next year.
He said work has also begun on a platform for spine surgeries that’s engaged some institutional and strategic partners. Additionally, Surgical Theater is working on making all of its technology available on iPhones and iPads, so surgeons can share and discuss their experiences during simulation.
To fund this growth, the company has been rounding up a $1 million round from friends and previous investors in the Cleveland area. It’s gone so well that Avisar said he doesn’t think a series A that was originally planned for this year will be needed.
[Photo from Surgical Theater]