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Neurosurg Focus. 2009 Sep;27(3):E4. doi: 10.3171/2009.6.FOCUS09120.

Operating microscopes: past, present, and future.

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Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53792, USA.


The operating microscope is a fixture of modern surgical facilities, and it is a critically important factor in the success of many of the most complex and difficult surgical interventions used in medicine today. The rise of this key surgical tool reflects advances in understanding the principles of optics and vision that have occurred over centuries. The development of reading spectacles in the late 13th century led to the construction of early compound microscopes in the 16th and 17th centuries by Lippershey, Janssen, Galileo, Hooke, and others. Perhaps surprisingly, Leeuwenhoek's simple microscopes of this era offered improved performance over his contemporaries' designs. The intervening years saw improvements that reduced the spherical and chromatic aberrations present in compound microscopes. By the late 19th century, Carl Zeiss and Ernst Abbe ushered the compound microscope into the beginnings of the modern era of commercial design and production. The introduction of the microscope into the operating room by Nylén in 1921 initiated a revolution in surgical practice that gained momentum throughout the 1950s with multiple refinements, the introduction of the Zeiss OPMI series, and Kurze's application of the microscope to neurosurgery in 1957. Many of the refinements of the last 50 years have greatly improved the handling and practical operation of the surgical microscope, considerations which are equally important to its optical performance. Today's sophisticated operating microscopes allow for advanced real-time angiographic and tumor imaging. In this paper the authors discuss what might be found in the operating rooms of tomorrow.

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