Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

Advanced Surgery Center Opens This Summer at Dartmouth-Hitchcock

By Anna Fiorentino
March 2013 • Thayer By Degrees: PhD

After two years of construction, a new 12,000-square-foot building on the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center campus in Lebanon, NH will open this summer as the first in the country dedicated solely to translational research—further establishing the hospital and Dartmouth as a leader in medical imaging and surgical innovation.

“We’re not looking to crank the next surgery through here. There won’t be pressure to make this a profit center where patients need to get in and out,” says Robert A. Pritzker Professor of Biomedical Engineering Keith Paulsen, who is also Director of the Dartmouth Advanced Imaging Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock and Co-Director of the Cancer Imaging and Radiobiology Research Program at Norris Cotton Cancer Center.

Speakers from Thayer School, the Geisel School of Medicine and the hospital officially introduced the Advanced Surgery Center to a group of select individuals at the Westin Copley Place Hotel in Boston on March 13. At the event, the trio of collaborators behind the facility, which in 2010 matched the original $10 million they scored from President Obama’s stimulus money to build the center, sought to raise, among other funds, an additional $2 million for an angio X-ray system that has already been accounted for in the building’s footprint. This machine would accompany state-of-the-art motorized ceiling-mounted MRI equipment and a mobile CT Scanner, all by Siemens, that will be installed in the next few months, after final flooring is laid and paint goes on the walls.

Advanced Surgery Center
Advanced Surgery Center for Translational Research at Dartmouth

While hospitals including those affiliated with Duke University and Johns Hopkins University have established similar surgery centers dedicated to imaging research and innovation, Dartmouth is the first to do both animal and human testing separate from the main operating rooms so as not to impact patient care. Research will come before any clinical business model, enabling real innovation, commercialization and things far out of the box. With big screen monitors in conference space, the Advanced Surgery Center will become a testing ground for undergraduate and graduate engineering students, and an opportunity for Thayer School to attract companies looking to do preclinical work for FDA clearance. Paulsen expects the facility to lend itself to using and refining image-guided technology used in a robotic surgical system called da Vinci, where a surgeon manipulates robotic arms from a console outside the operating room in a similar fashion to a playing a videogame, and a nurse remains bedside with the patient. Paulsen eventually foresees the Advanced Surgery Center eliminating the surgeon altogether during this procedure, by bringing to life a machine with vision sharper than the human eye.

Dr. Sohail Mirza, Chair of the Department of Orthopaedics at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, believes we can let images obtained by machinery drive the surgery, especially with orthopedic surgery where there is not a lot of soft moving tissue,” says Paulsen.

The Advanced Surgery Center will be located on the second level of the new building, next to the existing Advanced Imaging Center and above a the hospital’s new Clinical Radiology unit, which was also made possible by the Surgery Center project. The layout will consist of two operating rooms, one with a separate entryway for animal testing; two diagnostic rooms; ancillary office and patient holding space; control rooms; and labs, including a small wet lab for tissue studies.

“It took a lot of hard thinking but it’s been important to get people to see the value in our partnership,” says Paulsen. “Now, many of the cases that would have gone to a Boston research hospital can be done right here.”

Tags: engineering in medicine, faculty, research

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