One of the latest developments in laser technology, stereotactic laser ablation, is now enabling neurosurgeons at the MUSC Medical Center to treat brain lesions and tumors that were previously inaccessible. In December, they used Visualase (Medtronic, Inc., Minneapolis, MN), an MRI-guided laser system, to remove tumor tissue in the brain of an adult male. He was able to leave the hospital the next day due to the fact that the procedure was minimally invasive. In the past, a patient with his type of lesion would have required an open craniotomy and would have spent a week recovering in the hospital. Instead, with this new technology, surgeons use a small hand drill to make a 3.2 mm opening in the skull and then thread in a 1.65 mm flexible laser applicator.  The small incision is typically closed with one suture.

More importantly, the Visualase technology enables the surgeon to reach deeper regions of the brain, target tumors precisely, and protect healthy tissue by monitoring the temperature of the tumor and the surrounding tissue.

The Visualase system is used in hospitals throughout the United States but only at MUSC Health in South Carolina. In children, the device has also been used to treat brain lesions that cause epilepsy.