How Software Supports Doctors

Our Stories: Part 2

How ZEISS Software Supports Doctors

Part 2: How ZEISS software supports doctors

In Part 1 of our special issue about digitization we presented two software sites of ZEISS Medical Technology. Our colleagues in Munich, the Indian city of Bangalore, Jena and Dublin, California develop and test software used in ZEISS medical systems. We will present a few examples here.

Software supports doctors during operations that could make all the difference between life and death for their patients. This is shown by the story of Tabitha Williams.

In the minimally invasive correction of defective vision the laser is controlled by software, as our colleague Li Ning from China reports. ZEISS software is used in eye doctors‘ practices and hospitals when the devices need to be networked with each other, and software also supports dentists in their training and talks with patients. 

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Life-saving light in the operating room

Tabitha Williams received a diagnosis that would have meant certain death just a few decades ago. This young woman had a congenital malformation of the blood vessels in her brain and, in addition, a cerebral aneurysm. This fatal condition initially did not have an optimistic prognosis – Tabitha Williams was 20 weeks pregnant.

Many doctors shied away from the risk entailed in treating the young patient. However, Dr. Michael Lawton, Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of California in San Francisco, rose to the challenge. Together with his team of neurosurgeons and clinicians, he decided to initially treat the aneurysm, only because it posed the greatest threat to the lives of the young woman and her unborn child. The bulging artery was located between the two halves of the brain in an area known as the corpus callosum - deep brain surgery was required.

Professor Lawton observes the blood flow in real time

For the surgery, Professor Lawton used the OPMI® PENTERO® 900 surgical microscope and INFRARED 800, intraoperative vascular fluorescence module from ZEISS. During the surgery, this fluorescence option visualizes the blood flow which would otherwise be difficult to see for the surgeon and his team.

The blood in Tabitha Williams’ brain was visualized by means of a contrast agent that emits fluorescent light invisible to the human eye. Much like a thermal imaging camera, this light is made visible by the fluorescence module integrated into the surgical microscope and displayed in real time on a monitor as a white glow, similar to that of an x-ray film. Based on this information of blood flow, Dr. Lawton assessed within a very short time during the surgery whether the aneurysm had been completely clipped and whether the blood flow to the brain had been unhindered.

Watch Tabitha's story

The following video shows you how the surgery was performed and impressively demonstrates how the combination of fluorescence and a ZEISS surgical microscope can help enhance visualization. 

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See here how the visualization of the anatomy changes when the surgeon activates the fluorescence option

All pictures show parts of the brain.

 
  • INFRARED 800* is used to check the blood flow, for example during the treatment of aneurysms or bypass surgery.
  • The press of a button is all that is needed to switch the ZEISS surgical microscope from white light to the INFRARED 800 view; a camera captures the infrared light which is generated by a filter and is invisible to the human eye.
  • The software optimizes the visualization of the blood flow for the doctor: the infrared signal is automatically amplified, and the relevant video sequence is recognized and played back.

* INFRARED 800 has a trademark registration as IR 800™

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  • FLOW 800® is purely a software product: the visualization tool enables doctors to interpret video sequences captured with INFRARED 800.
  • FLOW 800 generates overview maps and diagrams and permits an interpretation of the fluorescence videos and an analysis of the blood flow dynamics through comparative views.
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  • When doctors use the YELLOW 560™ option, structures stained through the use of fluorescent dyes are highlighted. However, unstained tissue is seen almost in its natural color.
  • This option is used for research projects with appropriate fluorescent dyes.
  • Software codes in the surgical microscope support the doctor by controlling the fast switch to the fluorescence mode and the automatic setting of the illumination conditions.
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  • The BLUE 400™ option makes it possible to distinguish between diseased and healthy tissue – during surgery on brain tumors, for example.
  • Software codes in the surgical microscope support the doctor by controlling the fast switch to the fluorescence mode and the automatic setting of the illumination conditions. In addition, they optimize the fluorescence display on the monitor for documentation purposes.
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Intraoperative fluorescence helps surgeons perform some of the most challenging procedures in neurosurgery


Intraoperative fluorescence* supports procedures in vascular neurosurgery – for example, to treat cerebral aneurysms – dilations or bulging of vessels in the brain – as was the case with Tabitha Williams. If left untreated, aneurysms may lead to brain hemorrhage and ultimately death.

INFRARED 800, the intraoperative fluorescence option from ZEISS is available for various applications, and software plays a key role in the successful treatment of Tabitha’s severe condition. This visualization tool helps to directly display blood flow data to surgeons in real time, allowing fast analysis and immediate surgical decisions.

*Please use the fluorescent agent as per the approval status in your country.

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