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For patients, minimally invasive surgery done through tiny "keyhole" incisions generally means less trauma to the body, less blood loss, smaller surgical scars and less need for pain medication. Surgeons now use optical endoscopes - thin tubes with a tiny video camera--or two-dimensional ultrasound to navigate the surgeries.
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Professors Stephen Smith and Olaf Von Ramm, also of the Pratt School, developed the first 3D ultrasound scanner in 1987 for imaging the heart from outside the body.
Recent advances made by biomedical engineering Professor Stephen Smith provide surgeons a much better view, allowing them to essentially see through the body to the site of interest in real-time 3-D. The imaging improvement relies on 500 tiny cables and sensors packed into a tube 12 millimeters in diameter--the size required to fit into surgical instruments that allow easy exchange of laparoscopic tools.
Smith's team has demonstrated the device for heart imaging and later showed that the scanner could guide a surgical robot. More recently, his team, including Research Associate Edward Light, has adapted the ultrasound imager further, for use during brain surgeries.