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Brain Cancer Health Center

Sen. Ted Kennedy Out of Brain Surgery

Kennedy's Brain Surgery 'Successful,' Says Duke University Doctor
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Kennedy's Brain Surgery continued...

Heros and Flamm aren't treating Kennedy.

What does "targeted surgery" involve?

Heros: Targeted surgery is kind of a nonspecific term. If the purpose of the surgery is to achieve a maximum resection [removing as much of the tumor as possible]; oftentimes the surgery is performed while the patient is awake, so they can monitor the speech and avoid impairing his ability to understand speech and speak. ... Also, they can examine him during the procedure to make sure they do not cause motor weakness.

We know that we cannot totally resect these tumors because of the rootlets of tumors invading or infiltrating the brain tissue. ... There is evidence that if the tumor can be maximally resected [removed as much as possible], that may increase the chance of longer survival and better result from treatment.

Flamm: I assume today's surgery was an attempt to remove a significant amount of the tumor. The purpose of doing this is to reduce the "tumor burden," which would make the radiation and chemotherapy more effective. ... Let's say it was in a more favorable place where you wouldn't be concerned about damaging [language-related] areas of the brain. Even if you said, "I think I got it all," you would still follow up with radiation and chemotherapy, because if you don't, the tumor will be back in a matter of months. 

Dr. Heros, when Sen. Kennedy was diagnosed, you said that because of the tumor's location, surgery probably wouldn't be a major component of treatment. But he is having surgery. Does that tell you anything about his condition?

No. The decision to perform surgery is very dependent on the judgment of the neurosurgeon. One thing we don't want to do is to impair neurologic function that could limit quality-of-life issues for the sake of resecting more tumor tissue. This is very much a judgment made by the neurosurgeon.

What are some of the risks from the surgery?

Heros: The main risks that we would be concerned about would be -- since it is on the left side of the brain -- is for some loss of speech function. And that it could be ...  the decreased ability to understand speech [or] speak words properly. It may include difficulty using numbers, reading, or writing. A risk may also include decreased vision to the right side of their visual field and motor weakness of their right face, arm, and leg.

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