Laser procedure offers advantages for rare pediatric epilepsy surgery

Minimally invasive option leads to less blood loss and shorter hospitalization versus traditional craniotomies

DALLAS – May 6, 2021 – Using a laser for a rare brain surgery to treat drop seizures, which cause a child with epilepsy to suddenly fall, holds some advantages over a traditional open craniotomy, including shorter hospital stays for patients, a study led by UT Southwestern researchers indicates. The findings, published in the Journal of Neurosurgery, provide the first quantitative data comparing the two types of surgery, called corpus callosotomies.

Angela V. Price, M.D.
Angela V. Price, M.D.

“Our data shows that laser corpus callosotomies are easier on the child to recover from, and consequently, easier on parents and families,” says Angela V. Price, M.D., assistant professor of neurological surgery and pediatrics at UTSW, who leads the surgical epilepsy service at Children’s Health.

In recent years, Price and a few other pediatric neurosurgeons across the country have started performing a minimally invasive procedure, in which a tiny laser is inserted through a small incision in the skull to burn away a portion of the corpus callosum, a band of tissue that connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain. The traditional operation involves a large incision to remove a portion of the skull for access. Price and colleagues reviewed 19 patients who underwent 24 procedures: 16 had gone through open corpus callosotomies, and eight underwent laser procedures.

Results showed that for both types of procedures, drop seizures were practically eliminated, and rates of post-surgical complications were low. But the laser technique required a patient to spend less than half the time in the pediatric ICU and decreased the overall length of stay in the hospital (4.6 days versus 5.7 days). In addition, children required no inpatient rehabilitation compared with about 20 percent of those receiving open repair, and lost 12 times less blood (7 milliliters versus 84 milliliters).

Corpus Callosum
MRI with heat map overlay shows laser ablation of the main body of the corpus callosum. Credit: Angela V. Price, M.D.

Price notes that the operating time for laser procedures was nearly double that of the open procedure group (492 minutes versus 249 minutes), partially due to MRI imaging before and during the operation. The laser patients also took corticosteroid drugs about three times longer than those who had open procedures.

“Children’s Medical Center is the only hospital providing these procedures in Dallas, and one of relatively few in the U.S.,” says Price, a member of the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute. “As surgeons better understand the advantages of these procedures, I predict they’ll become a more popular option for patients whose seizures are best controlled by these minimally invasive procedures.”

Other researchers who contributed to this study include James P. Caruso, M. Burhan Janjua, and Alison Dolce.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern, one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty has received six Nobel Prizes, and includes 25 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 17 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 13 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. The full-time faculty of more than 2,800 is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in about 80 specialties to more than 117,000 hospitalized patients, more than 360,000 emergency room cases, and oversee nearly 3 million outpatient visits a year.