How are lasers used in Neurosurgery?
Lasers have been used for over 30 years in many aspects of neurosurgical practice, however lasers are just beginning to gain widespread application in the field. Microsurgical lasers are used for precision cutting for making incisions into the brain and spinal cord and producing discrete lesions in the brain and spinal cord.
The carbon dioxide laser and the Nd:YAG are used for ablation and the KTP:YAG, argon and other shorter wavelength lasers are rarely used now by a few Neurosurgeons for these applications.
Benefits of lasers and other energy-based devices in Neurosurgery
The use of the laser has particularly been beneficial for very narrow and deep approaches that are oftentimes required to access tumors in these locations. At a few centers, fiberoptically delivered lasers are being more frequently used for the vaporization and shrinkage of spinal discs to treat patients with herniated discs within the upper, mid and lower back through a minimally invasive surgical approach using the endoscopic guidance.
Recent advances in lasers in Neurosurgery
Recently the FDA has approved stereotactically placed lasers into the brain to ablate brain tumors with high precision through minimally invasive approaches that has resulted in significant commercialization of this technology. Laser light heats and destroys target area or tumor tissue through its photothermal effect. Temperature maps generated on intraprocedural MRI imaging show the physician the extent of the tissue being destroyed, minimizing damage to healthy tissue. Such technology is also being used to ablate epileptic foci in children. Laser based tomographic imaging has generated micron resolution images of the intracranial vessels that can revolutionize the practice of neurovascular science in the future.