Community Corner: MRI-guided Laser Surgery for Epilepsy

  • MRI-guided Laser Surgery is a minimally invasive technique that uses light energy to destroy masses in the brain that may be causing seizures.
  • The surgery is indicated for people who have a very well localized and defined area causing their seizures.
Is it Right for Me?
Wednesday, June 25, 2014

In this week’s featured podcast, Dr. Sirven interviewed Dr. Julian Bailes, a neurosurgeon who discussed a new type of epilepsy surgery, called MRI-guided laser surgery, also known as Visualase. Here’s a brief introduction about this type of surgery.

What is MRI-guided Laser Surgery?

This MRI-guided procedure uses laser technology to deliver small amounts of light energy to a very specific area of the brain where a person’s seizures begin. The goal is to destroy or get rid of the area that is causing the seizures.

  • An MRI (also called magnetic resonance imaging) is used to guide the laser energy to the area of brain already identified as the cause or beginning of seizures. It can also be used to treat tumors or masses in the brain that may be causing seizures.

  • It only takes a matter of minutes for the machine to deliver the laser or light energy to the intended area. The energy heats up the brain cells in that specific area and destroys them. This process is called thermal ablation.

  • Brain surgery requiring opening a portion of the skull is not needed for this type of procedure. Only a small opening is made that is closed with sutures after the procedure.

  • Usually a person stays overnight after the procedure. The recovery time is reported to be much shorter than typical surgery for epilepsy.

  • This procedure is relatively new and little information is available on the long-term results.

Who can have this type of surgery?

Just like traditional brain surgery for epilepsy, people must first have detailed testing to find out where their seizures are coming from and if surgery of any kind could be done safely without causing other problems. Also, it’s used when seizure medicines have failed to stop seizures. It’s not used instead of medicines.

  • This MRI-guided laser surgery is indicated for people who have a very well localized and defined area causing their seizures.

  • The traditional type of surgery would be needed in people whose seizures may not be as precisely localized or who need invasive electrode monitoring. (This means that electrodes are placed on the brain to find out where the seizures are coming from.)

How can I learn more?

  • If your seizures are not controlled with medicine, talk to an epilepsy specialist to learn more about treatments such as surgery.

  • A detailed evaluation at a comprehensive epilepsy center is needed to determine if surgery may be possible and what kind of approach may be best for each person.

  • Listen to this podcast to learn more about Visualase.

  • Read an overview of thermal ablation procedures for epilepsy surgery.

I hope this information helps! We’ll continue to bring you updates of some of the new therapies for epilepsy that were highlighted at the Epilepsy Pipeline Update Conference earlier this month.

Best wishes,

Patty Osborne Shafer RN, MN
Associate Editor/Community Manager

Authored by: Patricia O. Shafer RN MN on 6/2014
Learn More

Learn more about this type of procedure in our Thermal Ablation section

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