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History and Background

Vanderbilt has a rich history of computer aided surgery. This dates back to at least the 1970’s when Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick, then an Associate Professor of Computer Science Engineering, and Dr. George Allen, the Chair Person of Neurosurgery, collaborated on a study investigating bone implanted fiducial markers, as used for an image guided surgical system. This extremely successful project, the Acustar® Project went onto to commercialization and established Mike Fitzpatrick as an international expert in the error associated with image-guided surgical systems. Success of this project spilled into many other areas, including image-guided surgery of the liver and other abdominal organs-a team led by Dr. Bob Galloway who spun off a company entitled, Pathfinder Therapeutics.

In 2001, Dr. Robert Labadie arrived at Vanderbilt University as an Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and sought out Mike Fitzpatrick in the hopes of collaborating. They wrote an initial Discovery Grant to Vanderbilt University Medical Center which was funded in 2002. This served as the springboard to NIH funding, beginning in 2003, with the R21, entitled “Image-Guided Otologic Surgery.” This was followed by another R21, entitled “Robotic Surgery” and in April 2007 Dr. Labadie’s first R01, entitled “Clinical Validation and Testing of Percutaneous Cochlear Implantation.” The concept of this grant was quite simple. Take a wide field surgery (a Mastoidectomy with facial recess approach) and replace it with a minimized surgical approach (a single pass of the drill bit from the lateral skull to the cochlea). This work was motivated by pioneering research on deep brain stimulator electrodes being performed at Vanderbilt under Dr. Benoit Dawant of Computer Science Engineering and Dr. Peter Konrad of Neurosurgery. Using Dr. Dawant’s atlas-based registration techniques, an automated surgical plan was envisioned, following which a customized micro stereo tactic frame could be built to reach the target. This initial grant has led to very exciting results detailed on other pages of this site.

Along the way, numerous individuals have contributed to the many projects in the CAOS Lab. Dr. Ramya Balachandran started working as a graduate student under Dr. Fitzpatrick in 2001 and received her Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering in 2008. The CAOS Lab was fortunate that she chose to remain as an Assistant Professor of Research. Jason Mitchell has worked with the Lab on and off since the initial R21 grant in 2003. He currently works part-time in our laboratory and is pursuing his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering.

In 2007, Dr. Omid Majdani of the Medical Hospital of Hannover contacted Dr. Labadie regarding doing as research sabbatical in Nashville. This began a collaboration which both parties hope will continue for years to come. Dr. Majdani spent his sabbatical in Nashville from June of 2007 until December of 2008. This very productive time was supported by the Max Kade Foundation and resulted in extensive cross pollination between Hannover Medical School (the world’s busiest cochlear implant center), Leibniz Universität Hannover (an international leader in mechatronics and the CAOS Lab). Numerous individuals have spent time at each institution, including Stephan Baron, an expert in Robotics; Daniel Schurzig, an undergraduate student who did his internship at the CAOS Lab and subsequently accepted an offer of employment there in January of 2009; Andreas Hussong, as well as Drs. Omid Majdani and Robert F. Labadie. Dr. Mike Fitzpatrick spent a sabbatical at the Institute of Robotics at Leibniz Universität Hannover in the fall of 2008.

The CAOS Lab has been fortunate to have outstanding individuals involved in all aspects of the research-administrative support, nursing research, research coordination, research fellows, outstanding graduate students, and residents.