Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
New Brunswick • Somerset

Revolutionary Laser Surgery Technique Offers New Hope to Brain Surgery Patients at Robert Wood Johnson

July 16, 2010

New Brunswick, NJ – A leading neurosurgeon has performed the nation’s first laser-assisted brain surgery for a specific type of resistant brain tumor using technology so advanced that the patient went home the next day.

Shabbar F. Danish, M.D., Director, Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery and Assistant Professor at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS) and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH)
Shabbar F. Danish, MD, Director, Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery and Assistant Professor at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

Shabbar F. Danish, MD, Director, Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery and Assistant Professor at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS) and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH), used the Visualase, Inc., laser-assisted thermal ablation technique to operate on a patient with a recurring brain tumor after two previous surgeries and radiation did not permanently destroy the growth.

The technology is the latest addition to RWJUH and RWJMS’s growing expertise in the division of neuroscience. Dr. Danish specializes in the latest in stereotactic neurosurgery, which involves targeting small areas in the brain with techniques used to treat everything from Parkinson’s disease to brain tumors.

Susanna Denude of Riverdale, N.J., was diagnosed with an intracranial ependymoma, a tumor that grows from the cells that line the ventricles in the brain. While only six hospitals in the country offer laser-assisted thermal ablation, this is the first time in the nation that the treatment was used for an intracranial ependymoma, explains Dr. Danish.

“This is a tool for patients with tumors who have been told they do not have other options,” Dr. Danish says about laser-assisted thermal ablation. “This is also a viable option for patients who do not want radiation therapy or general anesthesia. Additionally, we can take their hospital stay from four to seven days down to 24 hours.”

The technique involves placing a laser directly into the tumor and then guiding the laser to perform thermal ablation, or killing it with heat, while leaving the surrounding areas of the brain untouched. The entry hole that is made through the skull is about the size of the end of a pen and requires just one stitch and a small bandage following the procedure.

“In order to find the exact spot where the tumor is located, we use a GPS system for the brain so that we can identify the exact target location during laser placement, load and then map out a path in the operating room,” says Dr. Danish.

After the laser is placed in the brain, the patient is moved to an MRI unit, where the operating team can observe in real time how the brain changes temperature with respect to the laser. “It uses a light energy in order to deliver the thermal therapy,” adds Dr. Danish. Only local anesthesia is used and the patient is able to go home the day after surgery.

“What we hope for Ms. Denude is that she goes on now to live a full life,” Dr. Danish says. “She’s a very active woman.”

Click here to request more information about laser ablation for the treatment of brain tumors.

About Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) is a 965-bed academic medical center with campuses in New Brunswick and Somerville, NJ. Its Centers of Excellence include cardiovascular care from minimally invasive heart surgery to transplantation, cancer care, stroke care, neuroscience, joint replacement, and women’s and children’s care including The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (www.bmsch.org). As the flagship Cancer Hospital of Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the principal teaching hospital of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, RWJUH is an innovative leader in advancing state-of-the-art care. A Level 1 Trauma Center and the only Pediatric Trauma Center in the state, RWJUH’s New Brunswick campus serves as a national resource in its ground-breaking approaches to emergency preparedness.

RWJUH has been ranked among the best hospitals in America by U.S. News & World Report seven times and has been selected by the publication as a high performing hospital in numerous specialties. The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital has been ranked among the best hospitals in America by U.S. News & World Report for three consecutive years.

Both the New Brunswick and Somerset campuses have earned significant national recognition for clinical quality and patient safety, including the prestigious Magnet® Award for Nursing Excellence, an “A” patient safety rating from the Leapfrog Group and “Most Wired” designation by Hospitals and Health Networks Magazine. The Joint Commission and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services have designated the New Brunswick Campus as a Comprehensive Stroke Center and the Somerset Campus as a Primary Stroke Center.

The American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer has rated RWJUH New Brunswick among the nation’s best comprehensive cancer centers and designated the Steeplechase Cancer Center at RWJ Somerset as a Comprehensive Community Cancer Center. The Joint Surgery Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset has earned the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for total knee and total hip replacement surgery.