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Sen. Ted Kennedy Out of Brain Surgery

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

Kennedy's Brain Surgery continued...

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.

Does his age make a difference in those risks?

Heros: I don't believe that the age makes the difference in the immediate risks. Sometimes age makes a difference in terms of recovery if deficits do occur. The main risk is, of course, the location of the tumor.

If there were complications, would they be immediately obvious?

Heros: The neurologic deficits should be immediately obvious. Of course, we always have to watch for secondary medical complications -- infection, making sure the surgical incision heals well, and there are some other medical complications that can occur after surgery that the physicians would monitor him for.

What's the recovery process like? Sen. Kennedy's statement indicates that he expects to be in the hospital for about a week.

Heros: The recovery time depends totally on what happens at the time of surgery, whether or not there are any neurologic deficits as well as the medical condition of the patient. Hopefully, we can look forward to hearing that Sen. Kennedy leaves the hospital within that amount of time.

Why do you think he chose to go to Duke and Dr. Friedman?

Heros: Oftentimes [patients] seek multiple opinions, and this decision to have surgery is a recommendation based on the judgment of the surgeon. There are several centers in the country that perform motor mapping awake surgery, and Duke is well known for this, as many other centers are.

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