Surgeon develops endoscopic procedure for pineal tumor removal

One of the most difficult-to-remove brain tumors—located deep in the mid-brain area—can now be safely excised, thanks to the work of one Los Angeles surgeon. Hrayr Shahinian, M.D., medical director of The Skull Base Institute in Los Angeles, has developed a minimally invasive approach to removing pineal tumors, as they are shaped like pine cones. The new procedure is expected to replace the more-invasive open brain approach favored by neurosurgeons, which leaves patients more vulnerable to brain damage and other side effects, as well as long and difficult recoveries. Shahinian says that his patients are enjoying healthier, asymptomatic lives, not to mention much shorter treatment and recovery times.

The new procedure developed by Shahinian involves making a dime-size opening behind the ear, inserting a small endoscope over the top of the cerebellum and through a natural pathway, accessing the deep-seated pineal tumor. This eliminates the need for any metal retractors or having to go through brain tissue to reach the problem area.

More common in children than adults (average age of diagnosis is 13), pineal tumors can cause headaches, nausea, fatigue, visual impairments, double vision, memory problems, seizures and, in children, precocious puberty. While 20% of pineal tumors are benign or relatively benign, 80% are highly malignant and their exact cause is unknown. Even benign tumors can be problematic as they can press on nearby brain structures, causing painful and serious reactions.

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Posted by Lee Mather

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