New tools for brain surgery
Sep 18, 1998
Brain surgery is one of the most dangerous operations carried out in hospitals today. Some tumours can be removed non-invasively with gamma rays, but the removal of larger tumours still requires an operation on the brain. As more precise instruments have become available, doctors have used ultrasound or blade- based instruments to remove tumours. But such techniques can easily destroy healthy as well as damaged tissue and, moreover, are very expensive to buy. Now Leon Turjanski from Argentina and Carl Fabian from Florida have patented an inexpensive surgical device that could help doctors distinguish between healthy and damaged tissue as they operate. (Patent 5779713).
Unlike other instruments, the invention does not require any sharp blades or cumbersome power sources (such as those needed for ultrasound devices) in the operating theatre. Instead, a small paddle rotates at high speed, converting the tissue into a liquid form that can be removed by a small vacuum pump attached to the instrument. By altering the shape and speed of the paddle, doctors can alter the instrument to remove either soft or hard tissue. Rapidly growing cancerous tumours, for example, are 'softer' that normal brain tissue, while slow-growing benign tumours are 'harder' than healthy tissue. The instrument also allows the doctor to feel the consistency of the tissue, while analysis of the fluid remove can alert the surgeon if he or she starts to remove healthy tissue - improving the chances of a healthy recovery by the patient.