Barrow Innovation Center

Innovating brain and spine treatment

Programs that Save Lives

Every great advancement in neurosurgery can be traced back to a novel surgical procedure or technology that challenged existing standards of care. Innovation is critical to the development of medicine.

Recognizing this importance, a group of Barrow Neurological Institute residents organically created the Barrow Innovation Center in 2015. Its core purpose: educating residents on how to develop ideas, empowering budding doctors to create solutions to the problems they encounter to best serve their patients. The Barrow Innovation Center is a place where residents and physicians can bring and develop ideas for devices, technologies and techniques to improve medical care. Barrow residents are trailblazers for medical innovations.

Residents are encouraged to think creatively about solutions to problems they frequently encounter. The center will become a national leader in developing functional neurology, the next frontier in neuromedicine. This approach views the brain as something that can be tweaked or enhanced to correct a deficit or improve a person’s function.

The advancement of 3D printing technology in neuromedicine

The potential for groundbreaking technologies is enormous, and it is a natural place for Barrow to lead. “A lot of medicine focuses on biology and pharmaceuticals,” says Michael Lawton, MD, Barrow’s president and CEO. “This would be more focused on technology and devices.”

The Barrow Innovation Center has already developed incredible innovations. For example, residents utilize 3D printing to develop synthetic spines and brains that match patients’ pathologies.

Watch how a 3D printer prints a skull model.

The 3D printed brains and spines are cheaper than traditional cadaver spines, have less variability and eliminate the need to handle human tissue. The brain and spine models are used to plan for surgeries, offering greater precision, less risk and a personalized surgery. In something as complex as a scoliosis surgery, as shown in the images below, being able to plan the surgery ahead of time is critical to success.

3D Model and X-ray of patient before and after surgery
Using traditional X-rays and innovative 3D spine models, doctors are able to plan complex surgeries, like this one to correct severe scoliosis.

Residents have developed 26 new devices or techniques in the first two years of the Barrow Innovation Center, including the myeloshield to protect a patient’s exposed spinal cord during spinal surgery. This device is already having an impact on patient care and surgical results, and with continued donor support, Barrow residents and physicians can continue to pioneer life-changing advances.