Lasers could improve the safety of brain surgery

Helping surgeons tell tumours from healthy tissue

Neurosurgeons are being given given a new tool to improve the safety of their operations - lasers that show them where the edges of a tumour are.

As you might imagine, operating on a brain is not an easy task. Cancerous tissue looks just like healthy tissue, and surgeons have traditionally just used their best judgement in working out how much brain to remove.

Now however, a new type of microscope could change all that. The Stimulated Raman Scattering (SRS) microscope lets surgeons see the difference in real-time between normal brain tissue and tumour tissue.

Data-Driven

"It allows the surgical decision-making process to become data driven instead of relying on the surgeon's best guess," said Daniel Orringer, who's piloting the technology at the University of Michigan Medical School. "We're able to visualize tumor that otherwise would be invisible to the surgeon in the operating room,"

A team is working on a version of the microscope that can sit close to the operating table. Surgeons will be able to place tissue samples straight into the device, which would image them on the spot to let them know if it's safe to proceed.

"By optimizing surgical results, we're ensuring that the patients will have the best possible outcomes after brain tumor surgery," Orringer said.

Details of the technique were published in the journal Translational Medicine.