You are now in the main content area

Idea, innovation, adoption — 7D Surgical pictures the future

Victor Yang, a neurosurgeon and Ryerson professor of engineering stands in a 7D Surgical medical suite

Victor Yang, a neurosurgeon and Ryerson professor of engineering stands in a 7D Surgical medical suite.

From idea to adoption, there are many steps in between when inventing new technologies, as Dr. Victor Yang has recently found out. Both a biomedical engineering professor and a neurosurgeon, he has created an innovation that will help improve the speed and success rates of complex surgeries that involve the brain and spine.

In 2009, Victor sought to answer a difficult question: how can surgeons gain the ability to see below the surface of a patient’s skin without making a single cut?

He assembled a Ryerson-based team that consisted of Beau Standish and Adrian Mariampillai, who were his post-doctoral fellows at the time, as well as engineer Michael Leung and scientist Peter Siegel. With support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering and Council of Canada and Mitacs Canada, the cross-disciplinary team was able to tackle the problem collaboratively, with each member bringing their unique skills to the table.

Victor and his team created 7D Surgical, a medical imaging device company that uses light emitting diode (LED) lighting in the operating room to shine a unique sequence of light onto the patient. The light reflecting off the surface of the surgical site is captured and used to create a three-dimensional topographical image. Paired with the patient’s CT or MRI scans, this image allows surgeons to better visualize what is below the skin’s surface.

Since the creation of the technology, the prototype has been used in clinical trials for more than 170 procedures. “Our research is showing that the imaging device is creating these images much faster, allowing surgeons to complete the procedures in less time,” said Victor. “This in turn will reduce complications and improve surgical results of these complex procedures.”

Through continued support from grants like a $1 million loan from FedDev, Victor has been able to refine the product enough to bring it to market. Mass adoption is possible in the near future, as both Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved 7D Surgical for use in hospitals.

The entrepreneurial environment at Ryerson allowed Victor and his team to grow and eventually bring this technology to market. “We were fortunate to have the backing of the university and the encouragement to pursue grants and funding through angel investors,” Victor said.

7D Surgical is introducing a disruptive technology that Victor has had the opportunity to use during his clinical trials. He is excited at the prospect of offering other surgeons the same capabilities, having seen the results first hand.

Marina de Souza is one of the clinical trial patients. She was diagnosed with a brain tumour last year, self-described as “the size of a baseball,” causing numbness on part of her head and arm. As part of the clinical trial she had her tumour removed at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre after a nine-hour surgery. Now almost a year later, Marina is living her life, working and travelling. “I know that I’ve been fortunate in my quality of care,” said Marina. “I’m truly grateful for the work of Dr. Yang and his team.”