This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.

Telesurgery - courtesy of the National Research Council of Canada

The remote operation.

Innovation often involves marrying seemingly unrelated methods to tackle pressing problems. In 2013, surgeons at the University Health Network in Toronto—led by Dr. Allan Okrainec—and engineers at Canada’s National Research Council—led by Nushi Choudhury—brought together the latest advances in communications and simulation technology to provide long-distance teaching to neurosurgeons in Ghana. The need for teaching is plain. More than fourteen thousand young children are afflicted with hydrocephalus each year. Hydrocephalus occurs when fluid builds up inside a baby’s skull and causes its brain to swell. Although the condition is treatable with surgery, it kills or impairs development when left untreated, which often happens because very few African surgeons are able to carry out the necessary surgery. The NeuroTouch virtual neurological simulator combines the latest surgical simulation tool with Skype and enables neurosurgeons in Toronto to train surgeons in Ghana to perform endoscopic third ventriculostomy, the delicate procedure required to treat hydrocephalus. The Ghanaian surgeons are now not only able to perform the vital surgery but can also become trainers themselves for other local surgeons, multiplying the impact of the initial training and extending a great marriage of technologies even further.

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