MRI-guided laser ablation surgery

Also known as: Visualase.

What is MRI-guided laser ablation surgery?

MRI-guided laser ablation surgery is a non-invasive technique that’s used to treat brain tumors, epilepsy and other problems. As the name indicates, it uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to guide the placement of a laser fiber to precisely target and treat areas of the brain with abnormal structure or function.

Epilepsy specialists at Nicklaus Children's Brain Institute were the first in the Southeast--and the second in the nation-- to offer this minimally invasive laser surgery, called Visualase, for children with medically resistant pediatric epilepsy.

Who is a candidate for MRI guided laser ablation surgery (Visualase) for epilepsy?

The Visualase procedure may be recommended for some children with seizures that don’t respond to anticonvulsant medications.

What happens during the procedure?

The patient is placed under general anesthesia. Then a small hole is made in the skull, through which a laser fiber is inserted. Placement is confirmed with MRI, and the laser is pulsed under MRI visualization until the target region is fully treated.

This new procedure, uses a fiber optic laser to destroy seizure-producing brain tissue through a small, ¼ inch, scalp incision. The laser heats and destroys the area of abnormal brain tissue, as real-time MRI images monitor the procedure.

Is any special preparation needed?

Since anesthesia is involved, the child may need to avoid food, drink or medications for a set period of time before the procedure.

Both you and your child should be equally prepared for surgery. Preparing your child for surgery can only be successful if you are well informed and psychologically ready. Read our tip sheet on Steps to Prepare for your Child's Surgery.

What are the risk factors?

Early experience suggests that laser treatment has comparable or lower risks than conventional (open) brain surgery. There may be site-specific risks that your surgeon will discuss with you prior to treatment. Recovery time is faster, and children typically go home the following day.

What are the advantages of Visualase over other types of epilepsy surgery?

MRI guided laser ablation surgery is performed through a small incision in the skin and skull. The incision is significantly smaller than that required for standard epilepsy surgery, promoting faster recovery and minimal postoperative pain for children undergoing epilepsy surgery.

Reviewed by: Ian O'Neil Miller, MD

This page was last updated on: January 18, 2023 10:16 AM

Brain Institute

At Nicklaus Children's, your child really does matter most. Please read below about our comprehensive pediatric neurological programs, treatment approaches, what to expect as a patient, a parent, a family and much more.

Learn More