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Polish Medical Innovation Wins Praise in Brussels
March 27, 2014   
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An innovative method for producing images of skull bones and blood vessels was among Polish medical inventions that won awards at the 62nd Brussels Innova World Exhibition of Inventions, Research and New Technologies in Brussels, Belgium, last year.

The new method, which combines magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) techniques, won the Grand Prix award at the exhibition, held Nov. 14-16.

The method, which is designed to support surgeons in planning neurosurgical operations, was developed by a team of researchers from the University of Warmia and Mazury in the northeastern city of Olsztyn, working in tandem with mathematicians and computer scientists from the Nicolaus Copernicus University in the north-central city of Toruń.

The full name of the invention is an “interactive fusion system of multiple 3D data as a surgical preoperative strategy and educational tool.” The system is intended for the 3D analysis of data needed by surgeons and for educational purposes.

The method involves a new approach to the fusion of MR and CT images during spatial analysis and detection of detailed anatomical structures such as arteries and nerves.

“The project involves a unique combination of two types of images of head structures using magnetic resonance imaging and computer tomography,” says Prof. Jerzy Gielecki from the Department of Anatomy at the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, who developed the invention together with Dr. Anna Żurada and a team from Toruń. “The system can help surgeons plan various stages of an operation and will be used by students for training purposes.”

The patient’s data is fed into a computer and transformed into an image, which takes a few minutes. To see the skull bones and blood vessels in the form of a 3D image, it is necessary to put on a pair of special glasses on which interactive cameras are mounted.

Prof. Wojciech Maksymowicz, a neurologist and dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of Warmia and Mazury, said, “The Grand Prix for Prof. Jerzy Gielecki is the second such prestigious award for a Polish scientist at the Brussels fair. The first Polish scientist to receive this award was [heart surgeon] Prof. Zbigniew Religa for his prototype of an artificial heart.”

In addition to the Grand Prix, inventors from Olsztyn won two gold medals at Brussels. One of these was for a prototype of a device for measuring so-called foot drop syndrome—an inability to lift the front part of a foot due to either weakness or paralysis of the muscles that lift the foot—developed by Maksymowicz and Michał ¦mieja, Ph.D., from the Department of Mechatronics at the University of Warmia and Mazury’s Faculty of Technical Sciences.

Foot drop syndrome may affect patients with neurological disorders, for example those who have slipped a disk. The invention can be used to diagnose patients with paresis—a condition typified by a weakness of voluntary movement, or partial loss of voluntary movement or impaired movement of a limb. The instrument measures reactions in the ankle, in extreme positions, including interactions with adjacent muscles or internal interactions. The patient lies down in a position that ensures natural relaxation of their muscles, with their foot immobilized by straps. In order to determine the degree of paresis, the patient’s foot is placed in a special frame connected to sensors. A special camera measures the degree of paresis. The sensors convert the results of the measurements into a computer image. The device can be installed on a hospital bed or in a pool. It can also be used for treating patients at home.

The other gold medal went to Prof. Andrzej Kukwa, head of the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Warmia and Mazury for his “indirect calorimetry system,” a device for diagnosing airway obstructions and “ongoing simultaneous recording of air flow signals and changes in the concentration of oxygen and carbon dioxide in expiratory gas.” Measurements are taken using a special transparent breathing hood integrated with a sleeping bag protecting the sleeping person against heat loss. Such a solution allows precise measurements of energy expenditure and components of metabolism when resting.

The device features a special hood with sensors for diagnosing how air passes through the patient’s mouth and nose. The device examines and registers any changes in the concentration of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the patient’s exhaled breath. Airway obstructions usually occur at the level of the throat. During sleep a person’s muscle tone decreases, as a result of which their tongue and soft palate drop towards the esophagus, leading to the closure of the upper respiratory airways and disturbances in their breathing pattern.

So-called obstructive sleep apnea syndrome affects about 5 percent of the population. It is especially common among middle-aged men.

The annual Brussels Innova exhibition, which showcases innovation, research and new technology, is one of the most prestigious international events focusing on technology transfer and technological progress. Polish inventors regularly win awards at the exhibition.

Karolina Olszewska
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