Rethinking Healthcare

Israeli robot performs brain surgery

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The robot performs brain biopsies, shunt placements, and neurostimulation electrode placement. It's expected to hit the U.S. market in the coming year.

When it comes to smarty-pants career tropes, brain surgeon falls right up there with rocket scientist. But brain surgeons could be taken down a notch by a new robot developed by the Israel-based Mazor Robotics.

The company announced this week it has completed the first successful robot-guided brain surgical procedures. The two German neurosurgeons who carried out the three trial procedures report excitement over the precision of the robot's work.

"We see great potential in the application of robotic technology to brain and spine surgeries. Our patients have been the best testament to its clinical success," said one of the surgeons in a press release.

Mazor Robotics' device can be used for brain biopsies, shunt placements, and neurostimulation electrode placement as used for deep brain stimulation.

Given the 25,000 brain biopsies completed in the United States each year, and the several hundred million dollars spent on deep brain stimulation annually, brain surgical work is a lucrative market.

Mazor Robotics already has one of the world's first hands-free robotic spine surgery products, called the Renaissance System, and company directors saw brain surgery robotics as a logical next step.

The Israeli business publication Globes reports the company's share price rose 7.3% by midday Monday following the announcement, to NIS 3.92, giving a market cap of NIS 86 million.

The US Food and Drug Administration and EU CE Mark are currently reviewing the new product, and a decision is expected by the end of the year. Mazor Robotics plans to begin sell the brain surgery robot as an add-on to the Renaissance System in early 2013.

So what's next, a robot that can calculate quantum mechanics? Oh right, we already have that.

Photo: Army Medicine/Flickr

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Audrey Quinn

Contributing Writer

Audrey Quinn is a Brooklyn-based multimedia journalist focused on health, tech and the economy. Her radio stories can be heard on Marketplace, Studio 360, PRI's The World, NPR's Latino USA, Deutsche Welle Radio and The Believer Magazine podcast. In addition to her work with CBS Interactive she produces multimedia science stories for online publications and is a teaching assistant at the Transom Story Workshop. Her investigative work has been awarded by the Fund for Investigative Journalism and The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure