Tuesday, September 1, 2009

fiber optic laser surgery

We'll be looking more deeply into the question of fiber optic laser surgery over the coming days; simply finding basic information about it is difficult. Here are some links, the results of an initial search.

1. The recent ABC News video about new technology being brought to bear against various brain cancers, which first introduced me to the notion of fiber optic surgery.

A word of caution: as we learned from Dr. Leiphart, Mom's neurosurgeon, Mom's GBM grew through the corpus callosum, which serves as a bridge between the two hemispheres of the brain. This in itself is a serious problem: you cannot outright remove the corpus callosum, nor can you surgically excise (or otherwise damage) major parts of it simply to rid it of cancer. Whatever can be done with fiber optic surgery-- if we choose to go that route-- will probably be done on other parts of the tumor, and only if there is a high probability of minimal damage to healthy brain tissue. This surgical technique, only recently approved for use, is still a young technology; it offers no guarantees, and may bring its own inherent dangers to the table.

2. An article that offers tantalizing hints about what fiber optic laser surgery is like, and what it can, potentially, do.

3. A set of papers about lasers in neurosurgery.

4. An ad for a certain type of laser surgery equipment. Even though this is an ad, it does provide a great deal of information about what fiber optic surgical lasers are and do.

The above four links represent a jumping-off point for further research. I admit I'm curious to learn more about this. The above-linked article (Link 2) seems to hint at how minimally invasive this sort of surgery can be. That's what I want to hear, but I'd still need to know a lot more: Mom's tumor crossed over from the left to the right hemisphere early on, meaning that the site to be treated probably can't be reached through the current hole in her skull. The article says that the entry point for the fiber optic device requires only a tiny incision for ingress, but it's not clear whether this will be the case for all patients and all cancers.

Our family will need to be prepared to gather second and third opinions about this and other potential techniques. There will eventually be a time when we all have to bow out gracefully, but that time is not yet. Not yet.


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