Epilepsy treatment at University Hospital Leuven is a first in the Benelux
MRI-guided laser ablation. Quite a mouthful for a new epilepsy treatment in which the patient lies under a MRI scan while the surgeon burns away 'offending' brain tissue during keyhole surgery. A small operation, but a first for University Hospital Leuven in the Benelux.
Fortunately two thirds of epileptics can be treated effectively with medication. For the remaining third, a current may be applied to the brain with electrodes in an operation to sear the tissue that causes an epileptic fit. However, this approach risks affecting tissues that play a role in other physical functions, such as sight, speech and motor abilities, due to the fact that the surgeon only sees what he has done with this traditional technique later on, making the surgery less accurate.
The new alternative, a fine laser combined with a precise MRI scan as a GPS, makes it possible to work accurately on the screen with results in real time. Thanks to smart software, the surgeon knows exactly where to burn away tissue and at what temperature. Although delicate and very expensive, the operation is shorter and less invasive for the patient. It is still early days, however, the effects in the long term do appear to be positive. University Hospital Leuven believes that a limited group of patients with severe epilepsy will really benefit.
Call it pioneering medicine from the departments of neurology, anaesthesiology, radiology and neurosurgery combined.