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Visualase MRI-Guided Laser Ablation Technology for Minimally Invasive Surgery available at Hackensack, NJ

Mr. Bruce Damstorm - the first patient to have ever undergone the Visualase Laser Ablation Technology procedure at The Northeast Regional Epilepsy Group for treatment of his epilepsy talked to Sloka Iyengar, research fellow, about his experience. 

Visualase is a new technology that utilizes a laser technology. Through light energy soft tissue including tumor or damaged tissue can be eliminated. Laser energy is delivered to the target area (the lesion) using a laser probe.  Because Visualase procedures are guided by MRI images, it can be very precise.

Other characteristics of this technology:

• Can be performed with patient wide awake

• Requires no radiation and no skull flap, the large skull opening in traditional craniotomies 

• May cause little or no pain during or after procedure

• Is minimally invasive, access smaller than typically created during a biopsy.

• Usually requires only a one day hospital stay

• Does not limit use of additional or other treatment options

• Is often performed on otherwise inoperable tumors/lesions

Mr. Damstorm had seizures for 25 years – in the beginning, his seizures were managed by anti-epileptic medication, but as time passed, the drugs stopped working, and he had to take ever-increasing doses of medications. Although he didn’t suffer from side-effects, the fact that he was taking more and more medication without any obvious benefit left him with an unsetting feeling.  Like others who live with epilepsy, Mr. Damstorm used to have auras just before a seizure, and could sit down or stop what he was doing to keep himself safe. Later, however, his seizures started to occur without auras, and he lost a great deal of his independence and mobility. Just about every three months, he would have yet another seizure.  His EEG recording showed that the seizures were originating from the right side of his brain; and later, an MRI scan showed scar tissue around the same area. 

As luck would have it, Mr. Damstrom came across a new procedure for brain tumors, where a small hole could be drilled into the skull, and a laser was used to ablate the cancerous tissue. Mr. Damstorm wondered if that procedure could be used for his epilepsy as well. He approached Dr. Enrique Feoli, co-director of the epilepsy program at Hackensack University Medical Center, who guided him towards the ongoing Visualase study at NEREG. This small study was designed to see whether this new technique could provide benefit to patients with epilepsy who had a defined focus.  

The procedure was performed on November of 2013, and Mr. Damstorm has been seizure-free ever since, something that brings him great joy and relief. Although he still takes anti-epileptic medication, he hopes to taper off the dose very soon. 

Says Mr. Damstorm - “I would describe the procedure as very simple.  Once I went to the hospital, I was sedated and woke up several hours later with no signs of the procedure I had undergone other than a headache. I was warned to take it easy for a few weeks, but I really felt like I could do anything. This procedure has brought me hope, and I had a wonderful experience with the Northeast Regional Epilepsy Group team.” 

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