Interview


Prof. Andreas Gruber has been head of the Department of Neurosurgery at Kepler University Hospital in Linz since 2016. As a surgeon, he has worked in New York, Texas, Vermont and Oxford and is now one of the leading international experts on brain aneurysms.


What is the relevance of the Medusa project for medical practice and subsequently for patients?

"Medusa makes it possible to plan the most difficult brain operations down to the last detail. In contrast to a system from Canada, our simulator can also display vessels. That's revolutionary, considering that the overseas company manufactures gripper arms for the space shuttle. With all due respect: But here we are clearly ahead. For patients, of course, Medusa means even more certainty that the operation will be successful. In brain surgery, millimetres can determine the success of the treatment. We have the possibility to simulate the operation in advance because we can map the brain with all its vessels and structures one-to-one in the model."

What motivated you and your team to get involved in this project?

"The Neuromed Campus at the Kepler University Hospital in Linz is the leading specialist clinic in its field in Austria. We do 3,500 surgical procedures a year, with around 2,000 in the brain area. We also want to be a leader in the field of research and create the best possible conditions for our doctors and students. Medusa is a project that has opened a new chapter in neurosurgery. I've been involved with the topic for ten years - only back then we didn't have the technical possibilities that 3D printing offers us today."

Where do you see the central advantages of Medusa for the education and training of neurosurgeons?

"Let's take the surgical treatment of aneurysms as an example. Here there are about 200 different types of clips for treatment. If we can get an exact image of the brain before the operation, it saves an enormous amount of time during the procedure and also reduces the complication rate. There are so many aspects that make Medusa stand out. Computer-based simulation is a milestone, although the skill and experience of the surgeon are always the deciding factors. The learning process to be world class takes 20 to 30 years and never ends because of medical advances."

Keyword Medical Faculty Linz: What significance does the project have for university research at this new location?

"It is great that we have this flagship project in Linz. Medusa places us at the forefront compared to other university hospitals. Elsewhere they work with the model from Canada - that's a huge difference in quality."

Where does Medusa reach its limits, where does its use make little sense?

This cannot be said in general terms if we are only talking about surgical interventions on the brain. In most cases, Medusa can be an additional aid, although its field of application is primarily very difficult and problematic cases. However, surgery is also the last resort in our field. In modern medicine, we also have non-invasive treatment methods at our disposal - for example, for tumours - such as radiation with millimetre precision.

How will or can the "Medusa" develop from your point of view?

As I said before, it is fascinating when we can rehearse a difficult surgical procedure in advance with a hybrid brain model of the patient, based on 3D computer simulation and 3D printing, the day before the operation. So Medusa offers more than visual instruction and assistance. It is also important for professionals to be able to work even better and more precisely. In brain surgery, however, the skill and expertise of the surgeons is and remains a decisive factor.

„"It's great that we have this flagship project in Linz. MEDUSA catapults us to the forefront compared to others."“
Univ.-Prof. Dr. Andreas Gruber

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