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A New Way to Remove Brain Tumors

Neurosurgeon Zachary Litvack used to tell his brain-surgery patients, "Expect to be goofy for a couple of days." During a craniotomy to remove tumors, other parts of the brain were often damaged, causing temporary personality changes and short-term-memory loss. The six-week recovery involved more than a week in the hospital.

But a new minimally invasive procedure at George Washington University Hospital called a single-port intracranial endoscopy now has patients in and out of the hospital in as little as two days, in some cases back to part-time work in a week. Litvack is one of the few doctors in the US who can perform the operation. During the surgery, he drills a nickel-size hole into the hairline of the skull or the eyebrow and inserts an endoscope. With a fiber-optic camera and light attached to the endoscope, he passes his instruments through the thin tube, consulting a high-definition video monitor as he removes the tumor through the hole. If the tumor is on the pituitary gland, he inserts the endoscope through the nose.

With traditional craniotomies, surgeons have to remove a section of the skull and insert their instruments directly through the brain to reach the tumor. But thanks to the single-port endoscope, the healthy parts of the brain suffer a lot less trauma.

Litvack began performing the procedure in 2011 at George Washington University Hospital and has used the technique to remove more than 50 tumors. "The idea is to minimize the manipulation and trauma to other parts of the brain," he says, "and let patients return to a better quality of life."

Read all of the 'Saving Lives with Science' pieces about our 2013-2014 Top Hospitals.

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Posted at 10:19 AM/ET, 01/29/2014
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