New Hanover Regional Medical Center unveils new method to remove brain tumors

New Hanover Regional Medical Center unveils new method to remove brain tumors

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - New Hanover Regional Medical Center is using a new, more accurate imaging agent to retract cancerous brain tumors.

Hours before surgery, patients will ingest a compound called Gleolan, which under a blue light, makes cancerous tissue glow red.

“This is the future of glioma surgery, and it’s happening right here at New Hanover,” says Dr. J. Alex Thomas, chair of NHRMC’s Neurosciences Department. “It almost makes it too easy.”

This relatively new compound contains aminolevulinic acid, which prompts a reaction with the cancerous cells. This makes it easier for surgeons to cut out cancerous tissue.

“The problems that come from the brain is that sometimes that tissue can look like the normal brain tissue and as you can imagine, brain tissue isn’t the same as other tissue in the body,” says Thomas. “You can’t get what’s called a margin of safety. You don’t want to resect normal brain tissue. You just want the tumor tissue. In some of the lower and medium grade tumors, it can be hard to see.”

This technique has been around for several years, being tested in research institutions and academic centers, but has only recently become a mass marketed technique used by surgeons.

“The key to resecting these brain tumors is to get as much as you can, safely, and not hurt the patient,” says Thomas. “It’s extremely accurate, which makes us more accurate. Very recently we’ve had patients wake up without any neurological deficits yet we know it’s a total tumor resection. We’ve had patients go home in a day or two.

"It’s great. It’s nothing like glioma surgery just a few years ago.”

Treatment for higher grade glioma is tumor resection and chemotherapy and radiation. When glioma is detected early on, resection of a lower grade tumor can cure the patient.

This practice is only used in surgery and operative use after the malignant tumor has been discovered, not for detection.

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, gliomas account for 78 percent of malignant brain tumors.

Symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Weakness on one side
  • Memory loss
  • Vision problems
  • Irritability
  • Seizure

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