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UCI Health offers minimally invasive laser surgery to preserve brain function

Approach can minimize risk of damaging nearby healthy tissue

September 29, 2015

Adding a laser to his surgical toolkit enables UCI Health neurosurgeon Dr. Sumeet Vadera to operate on epilepsy patients for whom surgery has not been an option. For some patients, medication does not control their seizures, which originate in a part of the brain that would be damaged by surgery, causing speech or physical impairment.

Visualase is a minimally invasive surgical tool that precisely targets the brain abnormality and destroys it by directly delivering infrared laser light without harming the healthy surrounding tissue.

“Lesions that were difficult to access with standard surgery can now be treated,” Vadera said. “We don’t have to make big incisions. Using a brain scan image, we plan our surgical path. The infrared laser light travels down an optical fiber, destroying the target tissue with heat, without damaging blood vessels or harming healthy tissue.”

UC Irvine Medical Center is one of the first Southern California hospitals to offer Visualase, which can also be used to treat brain tumors, masses and lesions. Vadera was trained to use Visualase at Cleveland Clinic prior to joining UCI Health last year. Since September 2014 he has performed four successful operations using Visualase.

“Lasers have several advantages over standard surgical tools,” Vadera said. “Precise anatomical targeting is possible, so no skull flap is required and the use of other treatment options is not limited. Lesions that would otherwise require a large craniotomy and open brain surgery can now be treated using a minimally invasive procedure.”

The Visualase procedure combines a powerful MRI imaging system and laser light energy.  A laser applicator is guided through a small pinhole in the patient’s skull, through the layers of brain tissue and into the lesion. The surgeon uses the MRI to monitor the temperature of the brain tissue. The laser light raises the temperature of the lesion until it is destroyed, while healthy tissue is protected. The applicator is removed and the incision closed, usually with one stitch.

UCI Health comprises the clinical, medical education and research enterprises of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UCI Health at physician offices throughout Orange County and at its main campus, UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, Calif., a 411-bed acute care hospital that provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, behavioral health and rehabilitation. U.S. News & World Report has listed it among America’s Best Hospitals for 15 consecutive years. UC Irvine Medical Center is home to Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, high-risk perinatal/neonatal program, Level I trauma center and Level II pediatric trauma center, and is the primary teaching hospital for UC Irvine School of Medicine. UCI Health serves a region of more than 3 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the University of California, Irvine: Currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, UC Irvine is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, the university has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $4.8 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UC Irvine, visit www.uci.edu.