Device offers promise of no brain tumor left behind

New technique might allow surgeons to identify edges of cancers

2:33pm, September 5, 2013
tumor tissue

THE CUTTING EDGE  A new technique generates colored images that differentiate tumor tissue (blue) in a mouse brain from surrounding healthy tissue (green). The technique may eventually improve brain surgery.

A tiny probe equipped with a laser might reveal what the human eye doesn’t always see: the difference between a tumor and healthy tissue. A new study suggests the device might provide brain surgeons with a roadmap as they go about the delicate business of removing tumors.

Surgeons try to excise as much of brain tumors as possible, but they risk harming the patient if they remove healthy tissue. “This problem,” says surgeon Daniel Orringer of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, “has vexed brain surgeons for as long as they have taken out tumors,” since the first half of the 20th century. “Basically, we do it by feel — the texture, color and vascularity of the tissues. Tumors tend to bleed a little more than normal brain.”

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