Spectrum’s new robotic arm to assist in brain surgery

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- A new technology is allowing doctors at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids to access the deepest parts of the human brain.  The robotic arm is meant to help those with epilepsy, movement disorders and brain tumors.

Spectrum Health is the first in West Michigan and among the first in the nation to offer patients this advanced option for brain surgery.

The robotic arm is called ROSA, and it's changing Jason McFate's life. McFate, 29, from Union City, has dealt with epilepsy for more than half his life. He decided to undergo brain surgery back in April to minimize his seizures.

"You've got to weigh your options. You either deal with having seizures or try and improve your life," he said.

With the help of Dr. Sanjay Patra and a surgeon-directed robotic arm, a tiny neuro-pacemaker was placed into Jason's brain.

brainIt was the first of many surgeries Spectrum would perform with ROSA.

"It can definitely impact a patient's quality of life by reducing the seizure frequency," said Dr. Patra, a neurosurgeon from Spectrum Health Medical Group.

ROSA has a GPS system that takes information from MRI's and gives doctors an exact location on where to place electrodes within the brain. "By placing these electrodes in the brain, you can really get a precise mapping of the brain and exactly where those seizures are coming from -- within millimeters," Dr. Patra said.

That precision was key during Jason's surgery, because some of his seizures were occurring deep inside his brain.

"When we're putting in ten or more electrodes into one side of the brain, it can take six or seven hours," Dr. Patra said. This new technology cuts procedure time in half, allowing procedures to be safer and more precise.

"It's definitely working: going from three seizures a week, and I've only had three since they turned it on," Jason said.

Spectrum spent close to $500,000 for this technology, but doctors say it's well worth the price.

Jason told FOX 17 the procedure is a bit pricey but says insurance is helping with at least part of the cost.

Three other patients are scheduled for surgery using ROSA within the next few months.


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