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Haptic neuronavigation for surgeons

What is the NeuroShirt?

The NeuroShirt is a patent-pending smart shirt that helps guide neurosurgeons during skull base surgery to prevent damage to critical structures such as veins and nerves.

It is a collaboration between Elitac Wearables and the UMC Utrecht (NL), with financial support from Kansen4West(G4P4) and the European Regional Development Fund.

We are currently interested in collaborating with commercialisation partners to develop the NeuroShirt further into a market-ready product.

Improving neuronavigation

Neuroimaging and navigation is widely used for drilling tasks in skull base surgery: It involves generating an individualised anatomical view of the patient beforehand and then tracking the surgeon’s drill bit relative to critical structures on a screen during surgery.

It is very beneficial in helping surgeons avoid damaging critical structures, but its major drawback is that surgeons must keep switching between the microscope view of the patient and the neuronavigation screen. This constant switching between views during complicated and 7+ hour-long procedures may cause fatigue and therefore, surgical errors. ​

The NeuroShirt solves this problem:

  • It connects to the neuronavigation system and continuously indicates both the distance and direction of critical structures through haptic feedback (vibrations).
  • This way, surgeons no longer have to split their focus between patient and screen.

How does the NeuroShirt work?

The NeuroShirt connects to 3rd party neuronavigation systems.
A constellation (set) of vibration motors on the back provides haptic feedback (vibrations).
When the surgeon approaches critical structures such as veins and nerves, the haptic feedback instantly indicates both where and how far they are relative to the surgeon’s drill.
The surgeon takes appropriate action to prevent damaging the nearby critical structures.


Decreased likelihood of surgical errors due to fatigue

Haptic feedback minimises the need to keep switching views, and therefore reduces fatigue and risk of surgical errors.

Real-time, continuous haptic feedback

No interruptions because the surgeon is switching between views.

Distance AND direction of critical structures

The NeuroShirt conveys information about both distance and direction of critical structures. Moreover, research demonstrates that haptic feedback is very effective at indicating directional information from a user-centred point of view.

Reduced risk of sensory overload

ORs are busy environments with many visual and auditory stimuli. Using touch to convey information unburdens the surgeon’s eyes and ears.

Distinct & intuitive

A haptic feedback wearable can always be felt: Even in the case of auditory and visual overload, surgeons are still aware of “the tap on the shoulder”. This greatly reduces the likelihood that vital information is missed.

Effective risk communication

Research has demonstrated that combining visual and tactile information can be more effective than visual information alone in the communication of risks.

NeuroShirt user feedback

The NeuroShirt […] helps us to know where we are and where the dangerous structures are, which we are trying to avoid.

Dr. J.W. Berkelbach vd Sprenkel
Associate Professor – Neurology & Neurosurgery, Neurosurgeon, UMC Utrecht (The Netherlands)

On your back you can really feel the different areas quite well, so you get this sense of direction.

Dr. E.H.J. Voormolen
Neurosurgeon, UMC Utrecht (The Netherlands)

I think the biggest benefit of the NeuroShirt […] is that it helps residents learn these procedures more quickly.

S. Diederen
Neurosurgeon AIOS, UMC Utrecht (The Netherlands)

Project background

The NeuroShirt is a collaboration between Elitac Wearables and the UMC Utrecht (NL) and has been made possible by the support of Kansen4West(G4P4) and the European Regional Development Fund.

Proof of concept

Elitac Wearables has constructed a Proof of Concept that was used in experiments by neurosurgeons from the UMC Utrecht in Q2 2020. In the experiments, they conducted virtual drilling tests aided by the NeuroShirt.

The user feedback and results were positive: Neurosurgeons were able to successfully drill a virtual spherical structure, with minimal training.

Status: Clinical validation

In Q3 2020, the NeuroShirt was validated on phantom bone structures by neurosurgeons from the UMC Utrecht. Further validation in the operating room will take place in 2021.

Contact us

Elitac Wearables is committed to developing the patent-pending NeuroShirt into a market-ready product. We are therefore looking for a commercialisation partner with a relevant network and/or sales & distribution channels.

If you would like to learn more, please leave your details in the form and we will be in touch as soon as possible.


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