OHSU doctors complete Oregon's first robot-assisted brain surgery

Bryan Black is the first patient in Oregon to undergo brain surgery with an assist from a robot. He's also been a force in creating awareness around epilepsy, leveraging social media to collect basketball jerseys. (KATU Photo)

A 34-year-old Monmouth man has earned the distinction as the first patient in Oregon to undergo brain surgery with an assist from a robot.

"I thought it was awesome," said Bryan Black. "I love being involved in new things and helping being a pioneer in medical discovery and research."

Black has suffered from epilepsy since 2008. A team of doctors at OHSU has been on his case for some time. The robotic help came from the ROSA robot, which stands for Robotic Stereotactic Assistance. OHSU neurosurgeons used ROSA to place electrodes in Black's brain. Doctors say the machine provides precise GPS-like imagery to guide placement of needle-like electrodes.

"It basically can do what the surgeon needs to do but a lot quicker and a lot more precisely," said Black.

Dr. Lia Ernst, OHSU Assistant Professor of Neurology, describes the technique like a board game.

"You're trying to find the coordinates of the precise location where the seizures start," she said. "You're trying to find the battleship."

Doctors will now monitor Black and use the electrodes to determine where his seizures are originating in his brain. A future surgery will aim to stop or reduce them.

While the surgery is noteworthy, Black has also become one of OHSU's most famous patients in another way. He might best be known as the college basketball fan who has leveraged social media to collect hundreds of jerseys donated by Division 1 basketball programs. Black says he's using his love of sports to create an awareness campaign around epilepsy. He's discovered a side benefit of meeting doctors, nurses, and other employees who hail from many different schools, some of which do medical research.

"This has really helped me," Black says. "Honestly, having these jerseys, I just think about this and my family and you know all of the hope that these people from these schools have and these innovations they bring."

The jersey campaign has also impressed his doctors.

"Brian is more than a patient," says Dr. Ahmed Raslan, OHSU Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery. "Bryan is also a patient advocate, which is a completely different job. Not all patient advocates are patients and not all patients are patient advocates. Bryan gets to be both."

So far, Bryan has received 227 jerseys. He needs 126 more. The only Oregon Division 1 school that hasn't sent a jersey is Portland State University.

You can follow Bryan on Twitter where he tweets from his @353jerseys4hope Twitter handle.

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