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Focusing brain surgery with robots

Al Musella's Comments: (This is his personal views and are not necessarily the views of the Musella Foundation!)


Posted on: 03/24/2003

Note: Click on the link above to see a video about this procedure!

Focusing brain surgery with robots

Updated: 3/24/2003 5:00:00 AM

By: Ivanhoe Broadcast News

Tracy Schoettelkotte had a brain tumor removed with SurgiScope technology. Watch her story in the video clip below. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 100,000 cases of brain cancer are diagnosed each year. Although brain tumors may originate in the brain and spinal cord, they more commonly develop from cells spreading from a primary cancer elsewhere in the body.

Doctors say the most important factor influencing treatment and prognosis is the biology of the tumor. Another factor is location. The brain is made up of areas of function, so the ability to get to the tumor and to remove it while preserving the brain tissue around it depends in great part on the function of the brain immediately adjacent to the cancer.

Surgery followed by radiation is the standard treatment for brain tumors. Chemotherapy is also commonly used for primary brain tumors.

"The current literature and our research show that prognosis is based on the amount of the tumor that is removed. Surgeons must reach a certain extent of resection, perhaps in excess of 90 percent, to make a significant impact on a patient's outcome, both in terms of length of survival and quality of life," said Dr. Raymond Sawaya, a neurosurgeon at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

This new highly sophisticated navigational device allows doctors to perform image-guided surgery. Prior to surgery, patients undergo an MRI scan, which locates the tumor and determines the function of the brain immediately adjacent to the tumor.

Using the visual feedback from the scans, the SurgiScope helps surgeons navigate to that target without damaging critical areas of the brain. The goal of surgeons is to remove the tumor without damaging the area around the tumor.

M.D. Anderson is one of only six medical centers in the nation using the SurgiScope. The tool, which combines computer technology with a microscope to magnify the target for surgery in relation to the patient's anatomy, is mounted in the operating room. In some cases, simpler versions of the SurgiScope can be used without the robotically controlled microscope.

In other cases, the surgeon may use only a Freehand Viewing Wand, a pen-like pointing instrument that provides 3-D computerized images of any portion of the brain, using scanned MRI or other images. Like the SurgiScope, the wand assists with preoperative planning and guidance during surgery.

"It benefits patients by keeping them in good shape and providing them with the best results, and at the same time, removes the whole mass," Sawaya said.

If doctors can remove the mass only and leave surrounding rain tissue unharmed, he says the patient will have less swelling, fewer complications and recover more quickly.

For more information

The University of Texas

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

Brain and Spine Center

1515 Holcombe Blvd., Unit 339

Houston, TX 77030

(713) 792-7728

Copyright © 2003 TWEAN d.b.a. News 8 Austin

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