Brain Tumor Laser Therapy: A Minimally Invasive Surgery

Few medical procedures are as daunting to face as learning you need brain surgery.

At Henry Ford, we work hard to provide you with all the latest options, even offering a minimally invasive procedure that can destroy certain brain tumors or abnormal tissue using heat from a laser. Unlike conventional brain surgery, this less invasive option drastically reduces recovery time and hospital stay.

Laser therapy also can reach previously inoperable tumors, or tumors that were difficult to access with conventional brain surgery.

How it works

Our team uses a state-of-the-art laser system called the Visualase MRI-Guided Laser Ablation System. During the procedure, a neurosurgeon inserts a laser filament within a thin, flexible cooling catheter into the patient’s brain through a tiny (4mm) hole in the skull. The neurosurgeon monitors the procedure in real time with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner images.

The laser delivers extremely precise energy to destroy cancerous tumors and abnormal areas of the brain that can cause epilepsy. Once light energy is delivered to the target, temperatures begin to rise, destroying unwanted tissue.

The MRI’s special software makes it possible for the surgeon to measure the temperature in different regions of the brain, allowing the neurosurgeon to ensure the appropriate tissue is being destroyed and minimize damage to healthy tissue. Afterward, the laser applicator is removed and the incision is closed.

The procedure takes approximately four hours and patients are usually discharged from the hospital the next day.

The benefits of laser therapy over conventional brain surgery

Conventional brain surgery typically lasts several hours. It involves partially removing the skull and cutting through healthy brain tissue to reach the area that needs treatment. After surgery, patients generally stay in the hospital for two to seven days and are out of work for two to six weeks.

Brain tumor laser therapy, however, offers several benefits:

  • Less invasive: The targeted tissue is destroyed through a minimally invasive technique versus partially removing the skull and cutting through healthy brain tissue.
  • Reduced scarring: Minimal stitches are required, and the patient is left with reduced scarring.
  • Faster recovery: Patients are able to return to work or resume normal activities sooner.
  • Shorter hospital stays: Most patients go home the next day.
  • Fewer treatment delays: Patients are able to return to other needed treatments more quickly, like radiation or chemotherapy.
  • Shorter procedure time: Brain tumor laser therapy takes four hours versus the several hours required with conventional brain surgery.
  • Additional options: Laser therapy can reach previously inoperable or difficult to access tumors...

Quick facts

  • Henry Ford was the first hospital in Michigan to use laser ablation therapy to treat brain tumors.
  • In 2020, 20% of brain surgeries were performed using MRI-guided laser ablation therapy—and that percentage may rise to at least 30% in 2021.
  • Henry Ford ranks 9th in the nation for highest amount of procedures performed using the Visualase MRI-Guided Laser Ablation System.
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