Objective: Several causes of spatial inaccuracies in image-guided surgery have been carefully studied and documented for several systems. These include error in identifying the external features used for registration, geometrical distortion in the preoperative images, and error in tracking the surgical instruments. Another potentially important source of error is brain deformation between the time of imaging and the time of surgery or during surgery. In this study, we measured the deformation of the dura and brain surfaces between the time of imaging and the start of surgical resection for 21 patients.
Methods: All patients underwent intraoperative functional mapping, allowing us to measure brain surface motion at two times that were separated by nearly an hour after opening the dura but before performing resection. The positions of the dura and brain surfaces were recorded and transformed to the coordinate space of a preoperative magnetic resonance image, using the Acustar surgical navigation system (manufactured by Johnson & Johnson Professional, Inc., Randolph, MA) (the Acustar trademark and associated intellectual property rights are now owned by Picker International, Highland Heights, OH). This system performs image registration with bone-implanted markers and tracks a surgical probe by optical triangulation.
Results: The mean displacements of the dura and the first and second brain surfaces were 1.2, 4.4, and 5.6 mm, respectively, with corresponding mean volume reductions under the craniotomy of 6, 22, and 29 cc. The maximum displacement was greater than 10 mm in approximately one-third of the patients for the first brain surface measurement and one-half of the patients for the second. In all cases, the direction of brain shift corresponded to a "sinking" of the brain intraoperatively, compared with its preoperative position. Analysis of the measurement error revealed that its magnitude was approximately 1 to 2 mm. We observed two different patterns of the brain surface deformation field, depending on the inclination of the craniotomy with respect to gravity. Separate measurements of brain deformation within the closed cranium caused by changes in patient head orientation with respect to gravity suggested that less than 1 mm of the brain shift recorded intraoperatively could have resulted from the change in patient orientation between the time of imaging and the time of surgery.
Conclusion: These results suggest that intraoperative brain deformation is an important source of error that needs to be considered when using surgical navigation systems.