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UW startup achieves a world’s first with tiny camera used in brain surgery


A tiny camera was recently used in a procedure in Ottawa to help diagnose and treat a patient who suffered multiple strokes, making it a world’s first.

The device was developed by Kitchener company, Vena Medical, which started out of the University of Waterloo’s startup incubator Velocity.

The camera is barely wider than a strand of hair, which is helpful as it weaves through tight spaces in the body.

“About a third of a millimeter in diameter. So it's very, very small. The next smallest is three to four times the size of that,” said Michael Phillips, the company’s co-founder and CEO.

Vena Medical's camera is inserted into a tube.

Phillips and his other co-founder, Phil Cooper, wanted to fill an industry gap in the medical field.

Between the two of them, the duo has seven physicians in their immediate families.

They said, historically, it's been difficult to see exactly what’s going on inside veins or arteries.

“Physicians were relying on fluoroscopy, which is essentially like using a 2D X-ray movie to perform these procedures,” said Cooper.

Those limitations have existed - until now.

A medical technology milestone was recently marked at The Ottawa Hospital when physicians were able to see live video, in full colour, from inside the vessels of a patient’s brain while doing surgery. At the same time, they were able to diagnose and treat them after suffering from multiple strokes.

That had never been done before.

“If it's black and white, you can't get as much information. But for clot type, whether the clot is red or whether it's white, basically red blood cell rich or fibrin rich, that has a direct impact on which technique you should choose to treat that patient,” Phillips said.

Due to the camera’s size, the potential exists to expand its scope beyond just treating stroke patients.

“We're starting off with neurovascular procedures. So that's things like stroke, carotid artery disease, aneurysms,” Cooper said.

The cameras are disposed after one use, which is common with devices that come in contact with blood.

As for what’s next, the hope is to roll the camera out across Canada.

“There’s definitely nothing like this,” Phillips said. Top Stories

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