OBJECTIVE: We have developed a frameless stereotactic neuronavigation system that allows navigation during neurosurgical procedures through an image formed from integrating ultrasonography and preoperative magnetic resonance (MR) imaging and/or x-ray computed tomography. METHODS: The system consists of an ultrasound imaging scanner, a workstation with an image capture board, and an ultrasonic tracking sensor with a 5-MHz ultrasonographic transducer. The ultrasonic tracking sensor measures the position and orientation of the ultrasonographic transducer. The oblique plane of the MR/computed tomographic image corresponding to the ultrasound image is then displayed on the workstation monitor. A three-dimensional computer graphic representation of the integrated image is also reported as a preliminary test. For the patient-image registration, the coordinates of digitized and imaged markers on a specially developed reference frame are used. The reference frame is noninvasive because it is not bolted but only fastened to the patient's head with silicon. RESULTS: Based on the findings from the clinical application of the system in three cases, the system was advantageous because the surgical procedures could be controlled by intraoperative ultrasonography as well as by preoperative MR/computed tomographic images. Missing parts in the ultrasonogram were supplemented with preoperative MR/computed tomographic images. At other times, spatial positioning and visualization by ultrasonography were useful for identifying anatomical objects in the image. CONCLUSION: This preliminary study of the frameless integration of ultrasonography into stereotactic space demonstrated its clinical usefulness. We believe that the concept of pre- and intraoperative image-guided surgery presented here will find increasing use in the future.
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