What is thermal ablation?

Thermal ablation is a type of laser surgery, using MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to help target the area of the brain to be operated on. The procedure is able to eliminate a seizure focus with pinpoint accuracy.

During the procedure, an MRI is done first to precisely map out the area of affected brain. Laser is then delivered to this area, without the need for open brain surgery.

Who should get this type of surgery?

Patients most appropriate for this surgery include:

  • People with a clearly defined areas of brain disturbance causing their seizures.
  • People who would benefit from a less invasive approach to epilepsy surgery.

Where is this surgery performed?

This surgery can be done in any part of the brain, theoretically, however, most experience is in the temporal lobe.

What is the outlook?

The outcome of thermal ablation surgery is the same as after a traditional temporal lobectomy. People do not need to be in the hospital as long and there may be fewer side effects to the surgery for some people.

Authored by: Joseph I. Sirven MD on 1/2014
Reviewed by: Joseph I. Sirven, MD | Patricia O. Shafer, RN, MN on 3/2014
Listen to Learn More about Visualase

In this episode of Epilepsy.com's Hallway Conversations recorded on June 10, 2014, Dr. Joseph Sirven, professor of neurology at Mayo Clinic Arizona and editor-in-chief of Epilepsy.com, interviews Julian Bailes, MD, co-director of the NorthShore University HealthSystem Neurological Institute based in Evanston, IL. They talk about the one of the latest innovations in treating epilepsy, the minimally-invasive surgery, Visualase. The Visualase System is a MRI-guided laser system for minimally invasive surgery.


Read an update on a pilot study of Visualase