Surgeons Wield New Tool Against Brain Tumors

Neurosurgeon Eric Leuthardt, MD, readies the Monteris probe in the Barnes-Jewish neurosurgery ORs.

Kathryn Holleman

Sept. 3, 2010 – The thin metal probe with the glowing red tip looked a little like a magic wand. To the patient on the operating table in the Barnes-Jewish Hospital neurosurgery OR suite, it might well have been one.

The patient had a recurrent cancerous tumor deep within his brain. Previous surgeries and the hard-to-reach location made a standard operation to remove the tumor impossible. But rather than sending the patient home to get his affairs in order, as might have happened in the past, his Washington University surgeons offered surgery with the Monteris AutoLITT (Laser Interstitial Thermal Therapy) system.

The system’s probe is inserted into the brain through a small burr hole the diameter of a pencil. Surgeons use an MRI to guide the probe through the brain into the tumor. Then, the probe discharges highly focused thermal energy into the tumor, “cooking” or coagulating the cancer cells and avoiding healthy brain tissue. 

Patients are usually able to leave the hospital after a short stay.

“This tool gives us a treatment for patients with tumors that were previously deemed inoperable,” said Eric Leuthardt, MD. “It offers hope to certain patients who had few or no options before.”

Leuthardt and Ralph Dacey Jr., MD, chief of neurosurgery at Washington University, performed the first operation with the Monteris system at Barnes-Jewish Hospital on Sept. 1.