Stereotactic methods confer great accuracy to intracranial target localization, but require strict adherence to a complex program of mechanical and computational maneuvers. A computerized, articulated, localizing ''arm'' has been developed that frees the neurosurgeon of these constraints and provides a completely intuitive, ''user-friendly'' interface. This universal system is independent of whatever localizing fiducial system is selected. The arm may be sterilized for intracranial use. A variety of intraoperative end effectors may be selected. The patient''s CT/MR/PET scans are loaded into computer memory and a three-dimensional shaded surface wireframe diagram of the patient''s head is displayed simultaneously with up to 3 independent sets of cross-referenced CT/MR/PET scan images on the intraoperative video screen. The arm''s endpoint location and the directional vector are shown as cursors on the relevant scan slices, and change continuously as the surgeon moves the arm. Because the information is continuously updated, an unlimited number of targets and trajectories may be displayed throughout the operation. The arm has an ultimate design accuracy for end-point localization to within 0.1 mm throughout a target volume of 40 x 40 x 40 cm. The tested application accuracy of the first prototype model is 0.31 mm. In clinical use during 30 surgeries, its real-world application accuracy is 0.9 mm. This system provides stereotactic accuracy and universally compatible, intuitive, interactive operation.

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