March 14, 2024

Faster, safer brain drill used for first time in life-saving neurosurgery

Editor's Note

A patient undergoing emergency neurosurgery at Northwestern Medicine became the first to benefit from a neurosurgical drill designed to eliminate the need for hand-crank operation. According to a March 5 report from Northwestern, the procedure occurred in October at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, “when Northwestern Medicine neurosurgeon Matthew Potts, MD used the Hubly Drill to create a hole in the patients skull in order to treat a brain bleed. The hole reportedly took only 15 seconds to create, which Potts called “far faster than the average” for typical hand-crank drills. “Hand-crank drills are also prone to plunging and slipping, which can be dangerous for the patient,” he told Northwestern. “This new drill has taken a common bedside procedure and made it quicker, safer and more accurate.”

The drill is the brainchild of Casey Qadir, who created it as a neuroscience undergraduate student at Northwestern. Today, she is chief executive officer of Hubly Surgical, which she created with classmates in 2017 to modernize the cranial drill.

According to the Northwestern article, the drill’s development focused on addressing plunging—hence the automatic stop feature that shuts off power as soon as the skull is breached—as well as the risks of complications resulting from manual drilling, even by an experienced neurosurgeon. A cone-shaped drill bit helps guard against over-penetration, while a red/green LED light indicates whether the user is applying too much or too little force. The drill is designed for single-handed use as well, freeing the surgeon’s other hand to stabilize the patient.

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