Surgeons perform a laser interstitial thermal therapy (LITT) procedure at Children’s of Alabama.
A new procedure called laser interstitial thermal therapy (LITT) allows Children’s of Alabama surgeons to take a minimally invasive approach to brain surgery and target tissue for ablation with greater precision.
Usually, patients with drug-resistant epilepsy who experience intractable seizures undergo resective surgery, in which a surgeon removes part of the brain. The procedure is very invasive, however, entailing a craniotomy, or removing part of the skull and cutting through the dura, which covers the brain. Some areas of the brain are difficult to navigate, and removing certain sections, such as the eloquent cortex, can lead to a loss of important functions, such as sensory processing or speech. Resective surgery also requires several days in the hospital and carries a risk of infection and bleeding.
“The small LITT device enables us to get into a deep region of the brain easily and safely,” pediatric neurologist Kathryn Lalor, M.D., said. “We can find the seizure onset with the electrode and then target the same area with LITT.”
The robotic system inserts a 2-to-3-millimeter probe (about the size of the tip on a new crayon) through a hole drilled into the skull. MRI guidance precisely locates the target area responsible for seizures. Once the probe is in place, a burst of laser energy destroys the tissue.
The device was initially FDA approved for temporal and medial structures in the brain, where much of adult epilepsy surgery occurs. Now, Children’s and other pediatric centers are demonstrating its effectiveness at treating epilepsy in other areas of the brain. “There’s a lot of research on how to make the energy delivery even more specific, so no unintended areas are affected,” Lalor said.
Using the device also reduces brain swelling thanks to its less invasive nature. “So, the recovery time is much quicker, and many of these patients go home the next day,” she said. In fact, studies find few complications and a good safety record.
In 2022, the team completed six surgeries using the LITT system.