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3-D Technology Takes Guess Work Out of Brain Surgery

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Kornel agrees that MRI probably does give better images of the brain. He says, however, that he decided to proceed with CAT instead because "the [MRI] system is very cumbersome to work with and it?s very expensive. [CAT] is much more user friendly at the beginning," he says.

Neither approach, however, is cheap. At Northern Westchester hospital, the Center for Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery spent $1 million to purchase the system and build a special operating room for its use. Ratcheson says University hospital "spent probably twice that much" for the MRI system.

Both centers, however, say the benefits of the systems far outweigh the costs. For example, Kornel says, "there is less brain trauma, people feel better sooner and go home earlier." In the case of a brain biopsy, Kornel says that with the image-guided approach the "patient can go home the same day instead of 24-hour hospitalization that is the usual approach."

Ratcheson agrees that the imaging systems are probably responsible for fewer complications after surgery and less brain trauma at time of surgery.

Another advantage to this "miniaturization" is purely cosmetic, Roubeck explains. "I was so worried about my hair, that my head would be shaved. But they only took away a little hair just in front of my ear, it wasn?t even noticeable. Not even I noticed," she says.

Vital Information:

  • Surgeons are developing new techniques that involve using on the spot 3-D images of the brain to guide them during surgery.
  • A special operating room must be constructed to do the image-guided surgery, and construction can cost at least $1 million.
  • During this type of brain surgery, the surgeon can be more precise, so there is less trauma to the brain during surgery, fewer complications after surgery, and the patients go home much sooner.
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