2010-11-01 / Medical Info

Revolutionary laser surgery technique offers new hope to brain tumor patients at RWJUH

Aleading neurosurgeon has performed the nation’s first laser-assisted brain surgery for a specific type of resistant brain tumor using technology so advanced that the patient went home the next day.

Shabbar F. Danish, M.D., director, Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery and assistant professor at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS) and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH), used the Visualase Inc., laser-assisted thermal ablation technique to operate on a patient with a recurring brain tumor after two previous surgeries and radiation did not permanently destroy the growth.

The technology is the latest addition to RWJUH and RWJMS’s growing expertise in the division of neuroscience. Dr. Danish specializes in the latest in stereotactic neurosurgery, which involves targeting small areas in the brain with techniques used to treat everything from Parkinson’s disease to brain tumors.

Susanna Denude of Riverdale was diagnosed with an intracranial ependymoma, a tumor that grows from the cells that line the ventricles in the brain. While only six hospitals in the country offer laser-assisted thermal ablation, this is the first time in the nation that the treatment was used for an intracranial ependymoma, explains Dr. Danish.

“This is a tool for patients with tumors who have been told they do not have other options,” Dr. Danish says about laserassisted thermal ablation. “This is also a viable option for patients who do not want radiation therapy or general anesthesia. Additionally, we can take their hospital stay from four to seven days down to 24 hours.”

The technique involves placing a laser directly into the tumor and then guiding the laser to perform thermal ablation, or killing it with heat, while leaving the surrounding areas of the brain untouched. The entry hole that is made through the skull is about the size of the end of a pen and requires just one stitch and a small bandage following the procedure.

“In order to find the exact spot where the tumor is located, we use a GPS system for the brain so that we can identify the exact target location during laser placement, load and then map out a path in the operating room,” says Dr. Danish.

After the laser is placed in the brain, the patient is moved to an MRI unit, where the operating team can observe in real time how the brain changes temperature with respect to the laser. “It uses a light energy in order to deliver the thermal therapy,” adds Dr. Danish. Only local anesthesia is used and the patient is able to go home the day after surgery.

“What we hope for Ms. Denude is that she goes on now to live a full life,” Dr. Danish says. “She’s a very active woman.”

To learn more about RWJUH, visit www.rwjuh.edu. For a referral to a physician affiliated with RWJUH, call 1-888- MD-RWJUH.

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