What can I expect with laser therapy?
What technology is used for laser therapy?
Laser therapy can kill lesions in many locations in the brain, at the surface or deep inside.
Unlike traditional brain surgery, it does not require a large opening in the skull. Before the procedure, doctors use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to view the lesion and outline the zone where the therapy will occur. The procedure is done while you are in an MRI machine so the doctor can see the lesion and the surrounding healthy tissue and can use different probes to apply laser energy where it is needed, even to the edges of some tumors with irregular shapes.
A special technology called MRI thermometry constantly monitors the temperature, verifying that enough heat has been applied to kill the lesion. The temperature of healthy tissue is also monitored to help ensure that it is not overheated and is protected as much as possible.
What happens during the procedure?
While you are under anesthesia, doctors make a small hole, about as big around as a pencil (Figure A), rather than a large opening of the skull that would be required for traditional surgery. While the head is secured in place, a small laser probe is inserted through the opening precisely into the lesion (Figure B). The probe delivers laser light energy to heat up and destroy the lesion – a process called ablation (Figures C and D). The precise nature of the procedure helps to lessen the likelihood of harm to healthy brain tissue.
The procedure is done while you are in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine – the same technology used to take pictures of injured joints and help diagnose various diseases. Software allows doctors to watch the progress of ablation on a computer screen using the MRI images. The MRI pictures help the doctors accurately guide the laser probe to the lesion, then apply heat to it, a little bit at a time, until all the targeted tissue is destroyed.
What happens after the procedure?
After the procedure, the doctors use MRI images to verify that the lesion has been destroyed. You will have stitches over the point where the probe was inserted. You may also have three scratches on your head from the device that held your head in position. Some patients have had temporary swelling after the procedure that may cause some short-term abnormal brain or nervous system function.
Experience shows that patients generally tolerate the laser therapy procedure well. This therapy is considered a minimally invasive surgery. In general, patients who undergo minimally invasive procedures have less pain and discomfort afterward, are able to go home sooner, can resume normal activity quicker, and have less scarring, as compared with traditional open surgery.*