The brain just might be the most complicated and powerful “machine” in the universe. But when the brain develops problems, brain surgeons and their patients run up against huge risks.
Brain surgeons regularly deal with benign and malignant brain lesions that are difficult to reach and are sometimes inoperable because of their location. In many surgeries, cutting through healthy brain tissue with carbon steel is highly risky and often leads to adverse neurological effects after surgery.
Use of Radiosurgery
This problem has been partially solved with the “Gamma Ray Knife” which was the first alternative to metal scalpels and was first used in 1949 by Swedish neurosurgeon Las Leksell. According to Dr. Possert at the Northside Hospital Cancer Institute, the Gamma Ray Knife or “Gamma Knife” delivers high-dose radiation beams to select areas deep inside the brain without the need for invasive surgery.
New Sound Wave Surgery
For the past couple of years, researchers at Seattle’s Swedish Neuroscience Institute have been testing a new sound scalpel that directs 1,000 ultrasound beams directly at a tumor anywhere in a patient’s brain. During the surgery, patients are awake, and ultrasound beams are directed using a special cap placed around the patient’s head. Patients feel just warmth but no pain.
According to Dr. Stephen Monteith, some places in the brain can be easily reached with a traditional carbon steel scalpel but sometimes at a cost, saying “Some places we can’t get to without causing a severe neurological deficit so that’s why we have these other techniques to help us with those difficult to reach places.”
The following video shows Dr. Monteith describing brain surgery using this new sound wave technology: