Kitware Awarded $600K NIH Grant to Advance Neurosurgical Simulation

Kitware has received a two-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) totaling more than $600,000 to focus research efforts on developing approach-specific, multi-GPU, multi-tool, high-realism neurosurgery simulation. The goal of the research is to work toward an interactive simulator that replicates future neurosurgery cases of young surgeons, enabling hospitals faced with compressed intern schedules to accelerate training and improve skills.

“Simulation has made limited inroads in neurosurgery despite its proven advantages over traditional surgical training,” said Dr. Michel Audette, R&D Engineer at Kitware. “Our objective is to empower the neurosurgical field with simulation training methods that directly correlate to better, more accurate patient care.”
Historically, simulation has over-emphasized needle insertion and failed to address requirements of surgeons-in-training on potential caseloads. Existing simulators do not ably reconcile the conflicting clinical requirements of neurosurgery; their underlying models are insufficiently sparse to resolve large tissue displacements and they are insufficiently descriptive of critical tissues at risk in each intervention.

This research will involve innovations in controlled-resolution meshing, with prior work of Dr. Audette’s shown for surface and tetrahedral meshes for pituitary surgery in (a) and (b), in conjunction with multi-rate finite elements. It will also integrate innovations in interactive nonlinear finite elements (not shown), highly descriptive knife- and scissor-like haptic interaction (c), and approach and pathology-specific surgical ontologies (d).

Kitware will set out to prove that for interactive neurosurgery simulation to be relevant and technically feasible, the following has to occur: anatomical modeling must be sufficiently descriptive in intra-surgical motion and tissue morphology; biomechanics must be faithful to tissue response; haptics must afford multi-tool interaction; and the system must meet clinical requirements reflecting the specific surgical approach and pathology.

The project will employ ITK to produce a descriptive and patient-specific application modeling brain anatomy, requiring innovations in segmentation, registration and meshing; VTK for interactive visualization; and the research will expand Kitware’s new Vessel Toolkit. This project will also build on Kitware’s expertise in GPU programming and haptics. Through this proposed work, Kitware will expand its leadership in computer vision toward advancements for photorealistic rendering in surgery simulation, as well as pursue research in medical ontologies.

Questions or comments are always welcome!