Henry Ford Health System in Detroit Taps Robotic Technology Used on International Space Station


Detroit’s Henry Ford Health System is the first in the state to use robotic imaging technology for brain and spinal surgeries using the Modus V, a robotic arm developed from technology used on the International Space Station, the health care organization announced today.

The International Space Station used the technology to position astronauts, repair satellites, and move cargo. For Henry Ford, the arm contains a digital microscope that combines a high-powered microscope with a high-definition exoscope, creating unprecedented views of a patient’s anatomy and allowing surgeons to perform less invasive procedures with more precision.

Modus V is used in conjunction with Synaptive’s BrightMatter Plan and Guide, a surgical planning and navigation system that uses Diffusion Tensor Imaging. The platform provides colorful, 3-D representations of brain tracks that are unique to each patient.

Similar to how GPS works, the system may help surgeons develop safe and effective routes for procedures such as tumor resections.

“We are so thrilled to offer this amazing technology to our patients,” says Dr. Steven N. Kalkanis, chair of the department of neurosurgery and medical director of the Henry Ford Cancer Institute. “We were early adopters of the BrightMatter system, and we know how transformative it is. Now, to be able to combine it with this new, space-age robotic arm, is creating a whole new level of precision that wouldn’t have been possible even five or six years ago.”

Dr. Ian Lee, senior staff neurosurgeon at Henry Ford Hospital, said the technology helps surgeons avoid critical structures in the brain and spinal cord.

“That results in more complete resections, fewer complications, less post-operative pain, and a shorter recovery time,” he says. “The images and enhanced field of vision we have in real-time are simply astonishing. It allows us to visualize the brain in ways we have never been able to before.”

The technology can be combined with BrightMatter Plan and Guide for advanced cranial surgery, including aneurysms, vascular lesions, and skull-based procedures. It may also be used for minimally-invasive spine surgery.

The Modus V and Henry Ford Hospital are featured in a new documentary produced by NASA titled: “Benefits for Humanity: From Space to Surgery,” which explores how technology used to build or maintain the International Space Station has been adapted to health care.

Henry Ford Health System is a six-hospital system.

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