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Software test puts Greenville medical team into Kenyan operating room

A young Kenyan woman is fast regaining use of her hands after a groundbreaking surgery performed by two teams of surgeons: one in the operating room in Kenya, the other in a small town in western Pennsylvania.

The successful surgery, completed in April, was the first long-distance test of Distance Expert Surgical software, developed at Greenville Neuromodulation Center (GNC), a nonprofit organization whose mission is, in part, to advance Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) through research, education and clinical care. 

DBS is a highly effective treatment for a wide range of neurological and psychiatric disorders, says Dr. Erwin B. Montgomery, Jr., GNC’s medical director. But only about 150 sites in the U.S. offer the surgery, and it's incredibly rare in the developing world.

The 25-year-old Kenyan patient had suffered for 17 years with severe chorea; this resulted in significant self-injury due to excessive, involuntary movement of her hands. The software gave Montgomery (who developed it with GNC colleague He Huang) the data critical for precision placement -- within one millimeter -- of a micro-electrode deep in the patient’s brain, all in real time from thousands of miles away.

GNC has licensed the technology to FHC Inc. and Greenville Modulation Services, its wholly owned subsidiary. Montgomery expects the software to be commercialized within months.  

Distance Expert Surgical is part of a suite of products that GNC is working on. Distance Expert Medical is designed to facilitate the management of complex diseases by health care professionals and non-expert physicians -- a secure database allows specialized practitioners to analyze patient information and make recommendations to treating physicians. GNC has completed a prototype for treatment of Parkinson’s disease. 

Meanwhile, Distance Expert Compiler is an under-development tool that would allow any medical center or hospital to create its own system for specific medical needs. And Distance Expert Fellowship is a training and education platform for doctors and medical personnel, a way for experts to "look over their shoulders in the operating room," explains Montgomery.

None of these are tele-medicine in the traditional sense, he emphasizes. Instead, GNC’s tools make highly specialized medical expertise available to treating physicians around the globe, especially for rare treatments such as DBS. Only about 100,000 DBS procedures have been performed worldwide, says Montgomery, "and a lot more than that are needed."

Source: Dr. Erwin B. Montgomery, Jr., Greenville Neuromodulation Center 
Writer: Elise Vider
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