How Children’s National Neurosurgeons Use Laser Treatment to Send Epilepsy Patients Home Sooner

Using novel laser technology, our neurosurgeons can now use minimally invasive procedures to eradicate deep-seated brain lesions that cause drug-resistant epilepsy.

Hypothalamic harmatomas are a type of noncancerous tumors that live deep in the brain, in the hypothalamus, and can cause gelastic seizures. These seizures resemble laughing fits and are difficult to treat with medications, and when left untreated, they can cause significant learning and behavioral difficulties.

However, with Visualase magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)--guided laser technology, neurosurgeons, like Children’s National’s Chima Oluigbo, MD, can eradicate these tumors using minimally invasive surgery, which means smaller incisions, smaller scars, and a faster recovery time for children.

According to Dr. Oluigbo, the neurosurgeons use an intraoperative MRI to see where to place the guide wire, and then software calculates the precise amount of energy necessary to destroy the tissue. The neurosurgeons can then check the affected area immediately, using MRI, to confirm the tumor was destroyed.

“Following Visualase treatment, children return home in no more than two days,” Dr. Oluigbo said. “With traditional surgical treatments, children would remain in the hospital for 10 days and experience more pain.”

William D. Gaillard, MD, Chief of the Division of Epilepsy, Neurophysiology, and Critical Care Neurology, adds that this type of procedure reduces the risk of morbidity and mortality associated with open surgeries.

“Children with uncontrolled seizures need to be cared for in a place with specialized experience in childhood epilepsy so treatments that have the potential to preserve the quality of life can be considered earlier,” Dr. Gaillard said.

Katheryn's Story

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Around Thanksgiving during her sophomore year of high school, Katheryn felt like throwing up after dinner.  She began to throw up regularly, but frustratingly didn't know why. After seeing multiple doctors, Katheryn was finally diagnosed correctly. 

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