TherVoyant strives to improve surgeon experience with MRI scanners

Brain surgery is a tedious and daunting job. With one slip of the hand or miscalculation, a neurosurgeon can easily do great damage.

Seven years ago, Terrence Oakes was doing research when he came across an idea he believed could revolutionize the art of brain surgery and make complex surgeries easier for surgeons.

Oakes, CEO of TherVoyant, has developed a software application that can produce real-time images of brain tissue that surgeons can use during brain surgery procedures. The company was profiled as part of a business series done this fall by UW-Madison students.

Oakes and his team of neurosurgeons and developers have created a software application, GuideRT; it produces images on an MRI scanner that can be customized to the needs of each patient. This will help surgeons get more complex images, as well as receive them in a fraction of the normal time.

Some key features GuideRT exhibits include rapid positioning of surgical devices, customization of real-time imaging for specific locations, and being able to monitor drug therapy injections to determine the adequate dosages.

On a basic level, GuideRT takes control of the MRI scanner.

“We are able to ask the scanner quickly to present us with an image,” Oakes said. The software makes the MRI scanner produce real-time images at a faster rate.

Surgeons can also program GuideRT to take control of the MRI scanner to get scans of specific locations and orientations of the brain.

“We can focus in on the area that we want to see very quickly, and we can get different images to show different tissue types,” Oakes said.

Surgeons have stated they prefer MRI images because of the superior and detailed information they receive from them, yet have noted how scanners are not user-friendly. For neurosurgeons, MRIs are crucial in understanding the spatial resolution and tissue contrast to perform a surgery correctly.

Normal scans done on an MRI machine can take between five to 10 minutes to develop a clear image.

“In the brain, if you want to see the contrast of an MRI it can take up to an hour,” Oakes said.

“You need a way to see what you’re doing,” Oakes said. Referring to brain surgery, “you have to be able to see where you are going to be able to place an object very accurately.”

Another instance that GuideRT comes in handy is with drug therapy.

“We are able to monitor drug injection in real time,” Oakes said. “Especially in brain tumors, we are able to see if the desired dosage is the same as what is needed.”

Oakes explained that one of the main goals of TherVoyant is to “provide a better outcome for the patient, and better experience for the surgeon.”

TherVoyant’s team is hopeful that the software will enable surgeons to perform new procedures that could not otherwise be done without these technologies.

By shortening the time needed to complete these procedures, it would also be a huge cost savings for the patient.

Madison-based TherVoyant has already conducted 50 trials of software, all successful. Currently Oakes looking for additional funding to get FDA approval for new projects.

TherVoyant will present to investors at the Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium Nov. 15-16 in Madison.

By Alyssa Mohr
Mohr is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.

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