Most of us would be scared of having a brain surgery; the thought going through a risky procedure wherein the surgeon cuts open the skull would terrify most laypeople. However, one medical facility just took us one step closer to an alternative to traditional brain surgery using technology.
Dell Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Central Texas has successfully performed a noninvasive surgery on a 16-year-old epilepsy patient.
“Epilepsy can be a debilitating condition to treat, but newer treatments like the laser are providing hope to those who have run out of options,” says Dr. Dave Clarke, epileptologist and department director at Dell Children’s.
Keynan Martin traveled with his family from Port Aransas to meet the specialists at Dell Children’s, who are the first in Central Texas to perform this new procedure that can improve a patient’s condition in just days, compared to months.
“I would have went for any surgery really,” says Martin. “If it changed the way it was I would have gone for it.”
Unlike tumor, epilepsy does not show up in a scan. The teen has suffered half his life from epilepsy – an abnormal firing of brain cells. But, traditional medicine wasn’t the answer for him since he is among 30 percent of the more the 50 million epilepsy patients worldwide, who fail to respond to conventional therapy.
“The minimally-invasive surgery [procedure] uses lasers to target the area where the seizures originate in the brain,” explains Dr. Mark Lee, M.D., a neurosurgeon at Dell Children’s.
Using sophisticated mapping technology, specialists at Dell Children’s first locate the area of the brain where seizures originate. The first such surgery was done on a 22-year-old woman from Austin. Surgeons were able to save her sight by performing the surgery, according to Dr. Lee. A few days after the surgery, she left on a vacation and hasn’t suffered a seizure since.
After identifying the area of origin for seizuers within the brain, the doctors, under continuous MRI monitoring, use a laser to remove the targeted brain tissue using heat noninvasively. This allows surgeons to precisely target the affected area of the brain without damaging surrounding areas.
Martin, whose seizures have continued to worsen with age, said: “It was pretty harsh. It changed my life.”
Though it sounds like a miracle, the operation however, is not without risks. There is a risk that disturbing any areas of the brain can affect basic functions such as language or motor skills.
Dell Children’s Hospital, a part of Seton Healthcare Family, is the only dedicated freestanding pediatric facility in Central Texas. Dell Children’s and Seton Brain & Spine Institute are the only places in Central Texas that offer advanced epilepsy care for children and adults and provide complete epilepsy evaluations and complex surgical procedures.