Robotic laser therapy treats epilepsy, brain tumors and lesions

Multidisciplinary teams from Norton Neuroscience Institute and Norton Cancer Institute work in tandem to achieve optimal patient outcomes with new technology

Norton Healthcare is the first health care provider in the region to use the latest in image-guided laser technology to treat brain tumors and lesions in the brain. NeuroBlate laser therapy uses real-time magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to guide a laser probe that can be precisely controlled to kill abnormal tissue while doing as little harm as possible to surrounding healthy tissue.

Now available at Norton Brownsboro Hospital, the NeuroBlate System reflects the benefits for patients when medical teams can cross over disciplines to provide the best care possible. For a patient with a lesion in the brain who is unsure of future outcomes, the two disciplines of neurology and cancer care working together can prove beneficial.

Joseph M. Flynn, D.O., executive director and physician-in-chief, Norton Cancer Institute, said that innovative technology and ability to work in cross-functional teams more than doubles what Norton Healthcare can offer patients.

“This is a clear example of how the whole can be so much greater than the sum of its parts,” Dr. Flynn said. “Individually our two disciplines provide excellent patient care, but the integrated care we can offer and achieve together benefits our patients and their needs.”

Norton Healthcare’s first procedure using NeuroBlate technology was performed Sept. 20, 2016.

Rather than making a large incision in the skull, NeuroBlate requires making just a small hole, about the diameter of a pencil. It can be used with patients who have lesions in areas of the brain that are difficult to access by traditional open surgery without harming essential functions such as speech, vision and muscle control.

The procedure is considered minimally invasive surgery. It generally involves less pain, discomfort and scarring than traditional surgery and allows patients to go home and resume normal activity sooner.

David A. Sun, M.D., Ph.D., a neurosurgeon with Norton Neuroscience Institute, said the NeuroBlate technology can be used for some lesions that once were considered inoperable.

“The procedure is done while the patient is in an MRI machine, allowing me to see the lesion and surrounding healthy tissue to apply laser energy where it is needed,” Dr. Sun said. “The temperature of nearby healthy tissue is monitored to help ensure that it is protected as much as possible.”

Thousands of people are diagnosed every year with brain diseases that require surgical intervention. Hundreds of patients around the country have undergone NeuroBlate procedures, which have been shown to be successful in reducing or removing diseased tissue.

“There are many types of brain tumors and lesions, so no single approach is right for all of them,” Dr. Sun said. “We are glad to add the NeuroBlate System to our collection of tools and therapy options to better serve the health care needs of our patients.”

Breakthrough technology aids in surgical procedures for epilepsy patients

The NeuroBlate system also provides minimally invasive surgical treatment for epilepsy. The MRI-guided laser ablation destroys the brain tissue causing seizures in place of surgical resection. “Many people think of brain surgery as a last resort, but we think it can hugely improve that patient’s quality of life. Especially for the epileptic patient who lives every day worrying about the impact their next seizure could have on their body and brain,” said Gabriel U. Martz, M.D., director of the Norton Neuroscience Institute Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. “This system is an improvement on the more invasive craniotomy used in the past.”

Instead of a large incision and craniotomy, the laser ablation uses a stereotactic frame to insert a probe into the abnormal tissue, much like the procedure for brain tumors. Under real-time MRI guidance, a laser heats the tissue and thermography measures when it has reached the proper temperature.

“We’re very excited to have access to these new technologies at Norton Neuroscience Institute,” Dr. Martz said. “We’re hopeful more patients suffering from epilepsy, and who are candidates for surgery, will consider surgical intervention with the use of NeuroBlate.”

The NeuroBlate System is made by Monteris Medical. It was cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in April 2013 and is in use at more than 20 of the nation’s leading health care institutions. It also was licensed by Health Canada in September 2014 as the first and only minimally invasive robotic laser thermal therapy tool available in that country.

Patients with questions about the NeuroBlate treatment should contact their physician.

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