Innovation and technology

Innovation and technology

At Alder Hey we recognise the major step-change in the NHS to adopt the best new technologies to improve both patient outcomes and performance and productivity.

All of our theatres benefit from the latest technology including dedicated screens for laparoscopic procedures and a fully integrated cross-theatre system that allows surgeons to communicate and send images to each other for real-time advice during procedures. The ability to film operations also provides essential educational material and is used to ensure that we continuously improve by examining procedures to learn lessons, consult with colleagues and see what could be done differently.

The surgical team at Alder Hey are helped in the preparation for surgery and during procedures with some of the best advanced equipment.

Hybrid operating theatre

Our specially designed ‘hybrid’ operating theatre is the first of its kind in a stand-alone paediatric setting in the UK.

A hybrid theatre contains all the high tech equipment and software required to perform high resolution diagnostic imaging and operations at the same time. Alder Hey’s new theatre is the first in the country suitable for operating on children from different specialties including heart, brain or spinal surgery.

Access to high resolution imaging in theatre means the surgical team has much more information available to them in real time during an operation. Operations can take less time and there is no need to move the patient out of theatre for a scan which reduces infection risks. High quality 360 imaging and navigation systems ensure much more precise diagnosis and surgery, significantly increasing survival rates. This software and technology helps to minimise potential side effects of surgery and exposure to radiation, while reducing the need for repeat operations and the number of times a child needs to be anaesthetised.

State of the art imaging also enables minimally invasive surgery to take place by providing a clear visual of a small area. Rather than performing open surgery, surgeons are therefore able to access this small part of the body using a catheter or endoscope. The size of the theatre is also helpful as it provides more space for a greater amount of equipment and more clinicians, which can be particularly helpful during intensive procedures.

Hybrid’s one room solution allows more complex surgery to be attempted in the safest possible surgical environment for children and young people.  This is incredibly important at Alder Hey which is one of the very few national paediatric centres in the NHS that performs brain, heart, craniofacial and trauma surgery. The new theatre at Alder Hey is equipped to treat around 200 children every year for a variety of serious conditions, including patients requiring complex paediatric heart surgery, brain surgery, spinal operations and life-saving emergency car

The new hybrid operating theatre has been made possible thanks to funding provided by Alder Hey Children’s Charity.

Orthopaedic imaging system (EOS)

Thanks to Alder Hey Children’s Charity, the spinal surgery and orthopaedic surgical teams at Alder Hey are able to plan their procedures with the help of the latest in x-ray technology – an EOS Imaging System, the first one in a paediatric hospital in the UK. This captures a 3D image of the whole 360 degree view of a child’s body allowing better surgical planning to take place. The image is taken when the child is standing up which is often much more comfortable for those with severe spinal conditions.

The EOS system also has the major benefit of using 1/70th of the dose of radiation of a standard x-ray and as  children with spinal conditions such as scoliosis are regularly x-rayed this hugely reduces their life-time exposure to radiation, reducing their risk of developing early adult cancers.

Intra-operative 3T MRI scanner

The intraoperative 3T MRI scanner was the first to be used in a paediatric setting in Europe. Used primarily during neurosurgery it provides the surgeon with highly accurate information that can be used to minimise disturbance to healthy tissue and to check the progress of the tumour removal. It allows the clinician to check whether the maximum percentage of the tumour has been removed while the patient is still under anaesthetic thus reducing the need for additional operations and anaesthetic.

The 3T MRI scanner has also benefitted patients with other conditions. More information can be found on our neurosurgery page.

3D printing

This gives surgeons a better idea of what they will encounter during an operation and so can reduce the length of time a patient is under anaesthetic. 3D  models have also been used to help explain procedures to parents and give them a better understanding of what surgery can achieve for their children.

3D model of a skull before printing3D printed model of a skullThese images show a 3D model of a skull being printed before surgery (left) and a model of the same skull printed from scans following the surgical procedure (right).

A number of studies are currently being undertaken to examine how 3D imaging can help clinical outcomes, including one to see how it can be used for improving hip dysplasia surgery which is one of the most common problems for children following hip disease.  This study contributed to Alder Hey and 3D Life Prints winning the Stand Out Contribution Award of a Business Partner at the North West Coast’s Annual Research and Innovation Awards. 

Future clinical trials are also being planned for learning about ankle fractures and how 3D models of the skull and soft tissues overlays can allow craniofacial operations to be practiced beforehand.

  3D printing is proving to be an extremely useful tool to educate future clinicians by providing low cost, specific and hard wearing examples of healthy and damaged anatomical structures which can be studied and handled by students. It allows surgical trainees to visualise structures better, understand which procedures are used and why they are performed in a certain way.

Technology such as this not only provides better outcomes for but also helps Alder Hey to be more productive and efficient.

Children's NHS Foundation Trustentrance is on Eaton Road

Alder Hey Children's Charity
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Alder Hey Children's Charity