New Precision Tool for Brain Surgeons

Brain tumor surgery more accurate with ultrasonic aspirator linked to mass spectrometer

(RxWiki News) In the field of medicine, there's nothing quite as difficult as removing brain tumors. Neurosurgeons have to be exquisitely accurate in their efforts. A new tool being testing could improve both surgical precision and patient survival.

The new system tells whether brain tissue is healthy or malignant as the surgery is taking place. This allows surgeons to remove more of the tumor without disturbing normal tissue, a development that could help brain cancer patients live longer.

"Ask what precautions your surgeon takes to ensure accuracy."

Zoltán Takáts, of the Institute for Inorganic und Analytical Chemistry, Justus-Liebig-University, Giessen, Germany, and colleagues explain that cancer can return if tumor cells remain after surgery. That's why surgeons typically take out more healthy tissue when removing cancers of the breast, prostate and other tumors.

Neurosurgeons are far more limited, though, because removing too much brain tissue can interfere with the patient's memory and other functions. So they have to precisely identify tumor margins (space between healthy and diseased tissue) during surgery.

To help with this exceedingly delicate and time-consuming process, researchers developed a new tool made out of two existing ones. A common surgical tool known as an ultrasonic aspirator, which breaks up and suctions out tissue, was linked to a modified version of a mass spectrometer, which is a standard laboratory tool.

Researchers tested the tool and found it to be effective in distinguishing healthy and cancerous tissue in human brain samples.

While more study is needed to refine the tool, researchers say it could be used on surgery of other organs, including the pancreas, liver or kidney.

The report appears in American Chemical Society's journal, Analytical Chemistry.

Review Date: 
November 10, 2011