News and Events

First in Israel: Virtual and Augmented Reality for Neurosurgery at Rambam Health Care Campus

Publication Date: 8/19/2021 10:30 AM

Rambam Health Care Campus is the first in Israel to use a unique system with augmented and virtual reality technologies for more accurate neurosurgical procedures.

Using Surgical Theater's Precision VR System during surgery. Photgraphy courtesy of Surgical Theater, Ltd.Using Surgical Theater's Precision VR System during surgery. Photgraphy courtesy of Surgical Theater, Ltd.

Neurosurgical procedures are performed with meticulous planning, and absolute accuracy is essential to positive outcomes. To that end, Rambam Health Care Campus is the first hospital in Israel to invest in a new augmented reality(AR)/virtual reality (VR) system that is enabling optimal pre-procedure planning, improving surgical efficiency, and potentially reducing complications and procedure times. The system was being used by Rambam’s Department of Neurosurgery and Pediatric Neurosurgery Unit.

Developed by Surgical Theater, Inc., an Israeli-American company, Precision VR™ is a multi-component system that enables every critical aspect of neurosurgery, from physician training to personalized neurosurgery pre-planning and navigation within the patient’s brain during surgery. Prior to surgery, traditional two-dimensional (2D) images are processed to display a 3D 360° spherical VR model of the patient’s brain. The surgeon then puts on special AR glasses and “flies” inside the patient's head to examine their specific anatomy and plan an optimal surgical approach that can prevent damaging critical internal structures and blood vessels.

During surgery, the Precision VR system displays the pre-planning model with an AR overlay of the actual surgical site by integrating data from other tools including a Medtronic surgical navigation system and a microscope. The surgeon then uses this information to perform the most minimally invasive procedure possible.

Surgical Theater's Precision VR system has been approved for use by the US Food and Drug Administration and the Israel Ministry of Health.

From a Flight Simulator to Imaging in the Operating Room

Located in California, Surgical Theater, Inc. was founded by two Israeli Air Force veterans: Moti Avishar, a senior engineering officer in the Air Force's Technical Division, and Alon Gerry, a helicopter pilot. The two were involved in the development of an advanced flight simulator for F-16 aircraft.

According to Dr. Gill Sviri, Director of Rambam’s Department of Neurosurgery, “I am happy and proud that we are the first hospital in Israel to use virtual and augmented reality to perform neurosurgery. Compared to working with CT and MRI scans, this is a real revolution in the operating room. With the 360-degree, 3D view, we can now plan surgical access to the brain in a clearer and more tangible way. The surgical procedure has the advanced planning features of a flight simulator. In addition, the augmented reality enables 3D images of the brain and brain tumor during surgery, viewing the 3D image through a microscope, and navigating inside the patient's head.”

Learning through simulation is a very important component in the training and practice of surgeons. Dr. Sviri points out, “Surgical Theater's system will also help young doctors who have not yet performed many surgeries to practice and plan them more efficiently, and to better understand the anatomy of the brain.”

Professor Mony Benifla, Director of Rambam’s Pediatric Neurosurgery Unit enthusiastically agreed with Sviri: “Surgical Theater's system undoubtedly improves the understanding of each case and the patient's anatomy and strengthens the surgeon’s confidence and accuracy.” Indeed, the system is expected to improve operating room efficiency due to its display of sharper images and ability to provide a 360-degree view. Benifla states, “I have no doubt that in the not-too-distant future this system will become the standard in every operating room and improve the chances of success, especially with regard to complex neurosurgeries.

Alon Zuckerman, the Vice President of Global Operations and President of the Medical Virtual Reality Division (MVR) at Surgical Theater, Inc. adds, “We are pleased to have been selected by Rambam’s Department of Neurosurgery to integrate our groundbreaking virtual and augmented reality technology into their operating rooms. This is a significant step in the development of medicine in Israel, and we believe this technology will eventually be used by other departments in the medical center. Rambam joins dozens of medical centers around the world that have assimilated our products into operating rooms and clinics, including: The Mayo Clinic, UCSF, Mount Sinai Hospital, Stanford University, New York University, and many more–to date, 15,000 complex surgeries and more than 100,000 patient consultations have been performed using this technology.”