BOISE, Idaho — Brain surgeons must already have delicate precision and incredible eyesight, but now there's a new technology being used in Idaho that gives them a view unlike they’ve seen before.
It's called augmented reality brain surgery, and it blends digital images with real-life shots of the brain. Doctors can see even deeper into the brain with this technology and reduce the risk of some sort of mistake or error.
“With your surgery we used some pretty cool technology," said Dr. Edward Duckworth.
Mike Griggs is one of the first patients in Idaho to have augmented reality-assisted brain surgery.
Dr. Edward Duckworth is his neurosurgeon.
"Mr. Griggs had a rupture of an arteriovenous malformation, we call them AVMs. It's like a tangle of abnormal blood vessels within the brain. He was probably born with it," said Dr. Duckworth.
Griggs never knew he had it until it started to bleed. He was at home in Hailey.
"All of a sudden all I could remember is an overwhelming pain coming over. I mean it was incredibly painful and something I couldn't even imagine," said Griggs.
He was flown to St. Luke's in Boise where Dr. Duckworth was standing by in Idaho's only brain surgery program.
"We start with what we call embolization, which we also refer to as gluing, and that's where you take a catheter up into the brain and inject glue, and that does a good job of plugging it up," said Dr. Duckworth.
It's done through the wrist.
"There's actually no incision, it's great. It's just a needle stick in the wrist into the radial artery,” said Dr. Duckworth. “We can actually get pretty large catheters through the artery in the wrist and up to the brain to do whatever we need to do."
But he says it's not a cure. The AVM could bleed again and needed to be removed. This is when the augmented reality technology played a big role a few days later.
"So we were able to see exactly where the AVM was through the operating microscope with a computer image, silhouette of the AVM and the hemorrhage, so we knew exactly where we were going," said Dr. Duckworth.
It's truly cutting edge and St. Luke's is the only hospital in the state that utilizes it for brain surgery.
"And it's just, it's a real game changer to be able to see exactly where you're going in real time through a heads-up display in the operating microscope," said Dr. Duckworth.
Dr. Duckworth says augmented reality makes brain surgery safer and he's proud to be the first in our region to use it.
“It's exciting, exciting time to be a neurosurgeon," he said. “You know, I don't want to go back to the old way of operating."
As you can imagine, Griggs is happy he benefited from the new technology.
"I'm just grateful to be here," he said.
Mike Griggs is the first patient in Idaho to have brain surgery through the wrist. And doctors say he has a great prognosis.