UnityPoint Health - Des Moines

Neurosurgery

Iowa Methodist Medical Center Among First in the Country to Offer New Minimally Invasive Surgery for Deep Subcortical Brain Tumors


Iowa Methodist Medical Center is among the first hospitals in the country and first in Iowa to offer a new minimally invasive surgery for patients with deep subcortical tumors and cysts. The new approach integrates several advancements in neurosurgery, allowing doctors to resect tumors that were often previously deemed inoperable due to factors such as location within the brain and tumor size.

Iowa Methodist recently pioneered the Six Pillar Approach, along with our neurosurgeons, and is one of only 11 hospitals in the nation currently offering the procedure. Dr. Kerr is one of only two oncologists in the country performing this surgery.

During the procedure, surgeons access the brain through an opening the size of a dime and use brain mapping, GPS navigation technology and a tool called the BrainPath to safely move through the natural folds and delicate fibers of the brain to reach the tumor. This allows surgeons to displace tissue rather than cutting it, thereby helping to lower the risk of damage to healthy brain tissue and to lower the risk of complications from surgery. Once in place, the BrainPath creates a clear passageway for surgeons to maintain access to the tumor. They then use a tool the size of a pencil to resect or remove the mass.

To date, fewer than 100 of these procedures have been done across the United States using the Six Pillar Approach. Achieving greater tumor resection can extend life expectancy for some patients. It can also help minimize some of the serious side effects brain tumors can cause including loss of speech, sight and mobility, supporting improved quality of life. This approach is being used to treat patients battling malignant primary brain cancers known as glioblastoma, as well as patients with metastatic cancer that has traveled to the brain from other parts of the body.

During the final phase of the procedure, surgeons collect and preserve tissue for pathological evaluation. Researchers hope to use the samples collected to advance research and the development of personalized treatment options tailored to a patient's unique cancer type. Subcortical brain tumors have been historically difficult to access due to the risks associated with traveling through the brain to the tumor location, which may result in memory loss or disruptions to speech and movement.

The Six Pillar Approach significantly reduces these risks by using computer guided navigation and by displacing tissue rather than cutting it as surgeons gain access to the tumor site. Since the surgery is minimally invasive, patients are generally able to leave the hospital within one to two days following surgery, and can resume limited activities soon thereafter.