Research on revolutionary technology for incisionless treatment of brain tumors

Published on: 12/03/2021

From L to R: Dr. Martytery Fajardo, pediatric neurologist, Dr. Shelly Wang, pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. John Ragheb, Director of the Division of Neurosurgery.

It sounds like a medical protocol straight out of a science fiction movie: A brain tumor neatly eliminated with an incisionless form of surgery.

In 2017, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital care teams began using magnetic resonance (MR) guided focused ultrasound – an incision-free technique – to ablate centrally located brain tumors in patients with tumors that require treatment. This research study is funded by Nicklaus Children's Hospital, with support from the Focused Ultrasound Foundation. The study is intended for patients between the ages of 8 and 22 years of age with a benign brain tumor such as astrocytoma or hypothalamic hamartoma.

Five patients have undergone MR guided focused ultrasound at Nicklaus Children's with favorable results. Most were able to return home soon after their surgeries with reduced seizures and symptoms.

Nicklaus Children's was the first in the world to perform this procedure for children, as part of an FDA-approved research study designed to demonstrate the safety and feasibility of focused ultrasound for the treatment of benign intracranial tumors in children and young adults between 8 and 22 years of age.

MR Guided Focused ultrasound is currently being offered to patients with benign hypothalamic hamartoma brain tumors using the InSightec Exablate Neuro System. Performed in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) suite, high intensity focused ultrasound waves are used to precisely target and destroy targeted tumors in the brain. Magnetic resonance imaging provides high-resolution visualization of the patient’s anatomy as well as near real-time monitoring. This marriage of technology allows surgeons to precisely heat and destroy the target tumor, without impacting the scalp, skull or surrounding healthy brain tissue.

The medical and research team at Nicklaus Children’s is led by Dr. John Ragheb, Director Division of Neurosurgery; Dr. Prasanna Jayakar, Chairman of the Brain Institute, Dr. Shelly Wang, Pediatric Neurosurgeon, Dr. Marytery Fajardo, Pediatric Neurologist, and Dr. Nolan Altman, Director of Radiology.

Hypothalamic hamartoma is a rare, benign (non-cancerous) brain tumor that can cause different types of seizures, cognitive problems or other symptoms. While the exact number of people with hypothalamic hamartomas is not known, it is estimated to occur in 1 out of 200,000 children and teenagers worldwide.

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