First surgery performed with innovative neuroscience equipment

Neurosurgeon Don Myers pushed buttons on a remote-control during spine surgery Oct. 9, and instantly views from three different angles popped up on a nearby flat screen showing him slipping two screws carefully between vertebrae.

Dr. Myers, medical director of neuroscience at Community Regional Medical Center, was the first to use Community Regional’s new neuroscience equipment, part of a $3 million investment to bring the most advanced neuroscience technology to Fresno.

The first of its kind in the Valley, the neuroscience surgery equipment increases accuracy, giving doctors instant data during some the most complicated surgical procedures. For patients, it makes surgery safer and quicker and reduces the amount of radiation they’re exposed to, explained Levi Griffin, a representative of equipment manufacturer Medtronic.

“These images are in live time with a CT scan,” Dr. Myers said, pointing to the O-arm that moves up and down the gurney around the patient. “It figures out where the anatomy is and a computer remembers the positioning if I have to go back to that spot. I have a camera with an infrared probe that I stick in through the vertebrae to show us where we are…Way cool, huh?!” 

In the past, Dr. Myers did the same surgery by taking repeated x-rays throughout the surgery, having to stop as the pictures were taken. “X-rays only showed one-dimensional views,” he explained. “But the trajectory of the screw could be off in two other planes because the x-ray only showed one trajectory. Here we have three trajectories shown on the screen.”

With a 13-second scan of the spine, the computer stores the images and marks each position so with a push of a button the surgeon can locate a specific view to check his progress without having to re-scan the spine, Griffin explained. In the past patients were exposed to radiation as surgeons moved the O-arm CT scanner down the spine to re-locate a specific view again.

Community Regional is finishing construction on a 52-bed neuroscience unit dedicated to spine and brain patients. Fresno’s downtown hospital is also putting together a combination of neurosurgical technologies and services not offered by any other facility in the country. Community Regional is creating a center of neuroscience excellence with the Gen4 CyberKnife, two 64-slice CT scanners, new neuroscience operating suite, three dimensional real-time surgical imaging equipment and faculty surgeons from UC San Francisco, one of the nation’s top medical schools.

This story was reported by Erin Kennedy. She can be reached at