Sterotactic Laser Ablation for Treatment of Brain Tumors

What is sterotactic laser ablation?

Stereotactic laser ablation is a treatment option for brain tumors. It is also called “Laser Interstitial Thermal Therapy,” abbreviated LITT. LITT uses focused light from a laser to heat and destroy tumors. A specially-trained neurosurgeon performs this procedure within an MRI scanner. This provides real-time imaging to guide the laser to the target tissue.

Why choose this treatment? 

LITT may be used on smaller brain tumors, for side effects of radiation therapy, and/or on tumors that grow despite radiation and chemotherapy. It is very helpful for brain tumors that are deep inside the brain or hard to reach with open surgery. At Providence Brain & Spine Institute, we combine intraoperative CT scanning, intraoperative MRI scanning and the Medtronic VisualaseTM Thermal Therapy System. These technologies help us perform the procedure safely and accurately. Our lead surgeon, Dr. Seth Oliveria, is the most experienced provider in Oregon offering this treatment for brain tumor.

What happens during the procedure?

  • After meeting with your care team, you will get a personalized treatment plan. This plan is based on MRIs that map the brain and guide the surgeon.
  • Before surgery, you will get anesthesia in the operating room. Once you are asleep, a frame is placed over your head to ensure stability. The surgeon will part your hair and make a small hole in your scalp and skull. The surgeon puts a bone anchor in the hole in order to guide a small, flexible catheter into the skull. Inside that catheter is the laser. This catheter is then moved into the target area of your brain.
  • Using an intraoperative MRI machine, the surgeon takes real-time brain images as the surgery happens. This confirms that the surgeon is in the correct location within the brain.
  • The treatment begins when the laser is turned on. First, the surgeon sends a low-power test dose of light. This gives another confirmation that the surgeon is in the correct location. Then, the actual dose of light is given. The laser heats up and destroys the target tissue. The surgeon uses a thermal map to confirm that the correct tissue is destroyed and to protect important surrounding brain tissue. Depending on the size of the tumor, more catheters may be inserted and more laser treatments given.
  • Once the treatment is done, the laser catheter and bone anchor are removed. The hole in the skull is typically closed with just one stitch.
  • For a helpful visual of LITT, please watch this 2 minute animated video from Medtronic: