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New Laser Targets Brain and Spine Tumors

Lee Eric Tessler, MD, Chief of Neurotrauma and Chairman of the Neurosurgery Quality Improvement Committee at Winthrop, was recently among the first neurosurgeons in the New York Metro area to use a new advanced, hand-held CO2 (carbon dioxide) laser. Dr. Tessler specializes in the treatment of benign and malignant brain tumors and the new CO2 laser provides him with an extraordinary new tool for doing so. The laser allows surgeons to remove difficult-to-reach tumors in less time, with lower risk of complications, less anesthesia and a smaller possibility of damage to surrounding healthy brain and nerve issue.

Traditional methods of dealing with these tumors include surgery, cauterization and suction, and radiation therapy. The new CO2 laser, known as the BeamPath™ and made by OmniGuide® from technology developed at MIT, has added a new tool to the modern day armamentarium.

The new BeamPath system directs CO2 energy through a flexible handheld fiber optic tube that can be manipulated in areas that were previously hard to reach. It offers surgeons great precision and control over penetration depth into brain and spine tissues. The new laser increases the likelihood that the surgeon will be able to remove the entire tumor without causing damage to surrounding brain structures.

“This is a major advance for neurosurgery,” said Dr. Tessler. “The laser removes as much of the tumor as possible without damaging critical structures that surround the tumor. It also removes debris from the surgical field and cauterizes surrounding blood vessels as it works, while reducing risk of damage from heat disbursement.”


The BeamPath™ made by OmniGuide® allows surgeons to remove difficult-to-reach tumors with great precision and control.

CO2 laser energy serves as an enhanced scalpel, combining precise cutting on a microscopic level, debulking (removing only a part of the tumor), ablation and microvascular coagulation with minimal collateral thermal damage. It can be easily maneuvered around blood vessels and specific nerve structures, carefully vaporizing the tumor one thin layer at a time. “Shallow penetration makes the CO2 surgical laser especially safe and effective in the treatment of skull base tumors, meningiomas, acoustic neuromas, pituitary tumors and schwannomas, as well as spinal cord tumors,” Dr. Tessler explained. “The laser reduces operative time, minimizes postoperative swelling, and allows for more rapid recovery.”

Dr. Tessler is using the laser on skullbase meningiomas or acoustic neuromas, slow growing tumors that are not always removed because they are not usually life threatening and because of the difficulty in operating on them. The tumors are very fibrous, which means that they can stick to brain and nerve tissue. This can make them more difficult to remove completely, and can increase the risk of damage to surrounding tissue. The laser cuts on a microscopic level, allowing for more precision.

“The improved technology is especially valuable when lesions of the central nervous system are near or embedded in critical neurological structures,” said Michael Brisman, MD, Chief of the Division of Neurosurgery, Co-Director of the Neuroscience Institute and Acting Chairman of the Department of Neurosciences at Winthrop.

While these tumors are generally benign, they can have a debilitating impact on the patients’ quality of life and can cause severe disability. As they grow, they compress sensitive areas of the brain, spinal cord, multiple nerves and major blood vessels in the skull base.

Patient Diana Smith* claims her life is finally “back to normal” thanks to Dr. Tessler’s CO2 laser surgery. An avid biker, Ms. Smith had to quit riding after mysterious visual symptoms led to an MRI, which revealed a tumor in her brain; she was referred to and operated on by Dr. Tessler at Winthrop. Ms. Smith recovered well following the surgery, returning home on postoperative day two neurologically intact. Within three weeks after being discharged from the Hospital, she was back on her bike. “I feel perfect,” she said. “It’s as if nothing ever happened.”

For more information about neurosurgical care at Winthrop and the new CO2 laser technology used for brain and spine procedures, call 1-866- WINTHROP

*Patient’s name has been changed to respect her privacy.
Vol. 21, No. 2
Fall 2011

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