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Reported September 12, 2007

Brain Surgery Without a Knife

SEATTLE, Wash. (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- Brain surgery no longer means cutting open the skull. Now, a new procedure allows doctors to remove brain tumors through the patient's nose.

The simple things in life have become quite challenging for Howard Katz.

"I basically have only about 20 percent vision in this left eye," Katz says.

Katz strains to read, his walking is unsteady, and he even had to give up his favorite pastime -- softball. "I can't hit the ball, and it's quite dangerous to try to catch the ball," he says.

A benign brain tumor about the size of an egg is pressing against Katz's optic nerve. Today, surgeons will remove it without ever cutting into his skull.

"Previously, removing this tumor required opening up the skull and going in through the brain to remove it," says Marc Mayberg, M.D., neurosurgeon at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. "Now, this kind of tumor can be removed primarily through the nose."

First, doctors map the tumor's exact location in the brain. Then, they use a navigation system to guide them to the site. Video cameras allow them to see precisely where the probe is moving inside the skull. Surgeons use thin instruments to go through the nasal passage to the brain.

"Once the patient's head is connected to the scan coordinates, then anywhere the probe travels inside the head shows up on the screen with a very high accuracy," Dr. Mayberg says.

Special tools disintegrate the tumor then either suction or remove it in small pieces through Katz's nostril. "It's still hard to believe that they could go into my brain through my nose," he says.

Now that the tumor is out, Katz is ready to go home, and doctors say his vision should gradually improve every day.

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If you would like more information, please contact:

Swedish Neuroscience Institute
Seattle, WA
(800) 331-1733

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