Advances in neurosurgery have opened the operating room door for an amazing array of highly invasive forms of brain surgery, but doctors and patients still face an incredibly important decision - whether to operate when life-saving surgery could irrevocably damage a patients ability to speak, read or even comprehend a simple conversation.
Jeff Ojemann/University of Washington
Improved techniques for the mapping of the brains language areas using functional magnetic resonance imaging (top) may replace much more invasive pre-surgery mapping techniques, such as electrocortical stimulation (bottom), which requires a patient to be awake and conversant while surgeons probe exposed brain areas in an effort to locate and map language-related functions.
Advances in fMRI brain mapping techniques provide neurosurgery teams with valuable information on the location of a patients language functions well before surgery begins, making pre-surgery testing more effective and improving odds of safer brain surgeries.
Now, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are developing a painless, non-invasive imaging technique that surgeons here already are using to better evaluate brain surgery risks and to more precisely guide operations so that damage to sensitive language areas is avoided.
The breakthrough holds the promise of safer surgeries for the nearly 200,000 Americans diagnosed with brain tumors each year. It also may significantly improve odds of success in an increasingly common epilepsy surgery in which large damaged sections of a patients temporal brain lobe are removed in an effort to alleviate severe seizures.
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