Spectrum Health robot could lead to remote brain surgery

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Spectrum Health is using new technology that could someday allow doctors to perform brain surgery from state or even countries away.

Dr. Justin Singer, the director of vascular neurosurgery with the hospital system in Grand Rapids, has performed several procedures at Butterworth Hospital using the machine and said it could revolutionize patient care.

“It’s called a Corindus CorPath robot that has been used in cardiology for a period of time but now it’s being developed to be used for neurointerventional procedures,” Singer said.

The terminal where Spectrum Health doctors sit while using the Corindus CorPath robot to perform neurosurgery. (May 13, 2022)

For now, neurosurgeons who perform the surgery sit at a terminal just outside the operating room. The goal is to develop the technology to reach greater distances, whether that is another part of a city or all the way to other countries.

“We’re only the ninth program in the United States and the first in Michigan to have one and we’re hoping to be part of the wave that’s going to really usher this in as what we believe will be the standard of care,” Singer said.

Singer conducted a demonstration with a cardiologist on a model to show the capabilities, but more research is needed before the work can be done remotely on actual patients.

“He and I have performed a trial, first in the world actually, where I was 5 miles away at a location over at our Bradford cardiology office and I drove a robot in a model and we were able to perform an emergency stroke procedure and suck out a blood clot,” Singer said.

The purchase of the $600,000 machine was made possible by Steve Field and his family with a donation that covered nearly half the cost. Field’s brother-in-law died of a stroke.

Singer says technology like this will make a lasting impact.

“We have Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital; someone who has a stroke there now gets transferred here (to Grand Rapids) so I can care for them. Five, six, seven years from now, maybe that’s not the case,” Singer said.

May is stroke awareness month. The Stroke Reduction Golf Classic will be held May 23 at Thousand Oaks Golf Club northeast of Grand Rapids. Tickets can be bought through the Spectrum Health Foundation website.

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