Brain tumor surgery was the meeting point of medicine with artificial intelligence (AI). The collaboration between a neurosurgeon and a 3D designer demonstrated how technology could improve the quality of life.
AI is increasingly present in the medical world. This time, he contributed to a complex operation. At the Hospital del Mar in Barcelona, Spain, a doctor removed a brain tumor from an awake woman while the surgery was performed. Throughout the procedure, the security of the operation was assisted by AI.
Where and how was this surgery performed?
A 44-year-old woman, originally from Spain, suffered from a low-grade glioma in the right hemisphere of her brain. Gliomas are tumors of the central nervous system. They are made up of glial cells, the tissue supporting neurons.
Removing this brain tumor was not easy at all. Its location near critical areas of the brain, such as the corpus callosum, made the task difficult to succeed.
However, the neurosurgeon had a novel idea. To corroborate, in real-time, that it was not affecting the correct brain function of the patient, she decided to evaluate her emotions. At the same time, she performed the surgery while awake.
To do this, an AI test was designed for the woman to answer specific questions during the operation. If the answers were correct, the doctor ensured she was removing only the brain tumor and not healthy parts of the central nervous system.
The two architects of this revolutionary use of AI were a neurosurgeon and a 3D designer. The doctor is Jesús Martín-Fernández, 30 years old. He currently practices his profession between France, Spain, and England.
Martín-Fernández was introduced to the proper hemisphere surgery technique in France. However, he was the first to incorporate AI. To do this, he used the contributions of the 3D designer Francisco Pérez.
More collaborators were present inside the operating room. There was a neuro anesthetist, neuropsychologist, and a neurophysiologist.
What role did AI play in brain tumor surgery?
Awake surgery of the left hemisphere had already been practiced before. However, it is now in Spain that the technique has been carried out on the right side of the brain and, above all, the inclusion of AI in the process.
The 3D designer created digital avatars or metahumans that moved and expressed various emotions. These AI animations were shown to the woman while she was having her brain tumor removed. As she watched the videos, she had to comment what emotions were offered to her.
Their correct answers were the signal that the neurosurgeon was not affecting healthy brain tissue. This is so because the right hemisphere is in charge of controlling emotions and personality.
The AI test was a novel option for two reasons:
- He tested the brain’s right hemisphere, which has always been considered the most difficult to access.
- It was closer to reality thanks to the use of animation. Static cards have been used for these tests in previous brain surgeries.
The contributions of AI in the treatment of a brain tumor
Post-evaluations of the patient who received surgery for her brain tumor were successful. So far, she has no cognitive problems and is progressing favorably.
The use of AI in the treatment of these tumors adds another milestone. Although patients tend to have some misgivings about the participation of artificial intelligence in neurosurgery, its acceptance is increasing. Furthermore, many neurosurgeons agree that this is an inevitable addition to the field.
Mapping nerve function while removing a brain tumor is a critical action in these surgeries. The design of 3D avatars would even allow patients to be fitted with virtual reality glasses that would increase the precision of their responses. And more precision is more excellent safety when operating.
Jesús Martín-Fernández brought, with his surgery, a sample of the future. His story checks how medicine and AI can work together for the good of humanity.