Brain surgery is always complex, but the approach can vary greatly depending on the condition being treated. Tyler Atkins, MD, PPG – Neurosurgery, takes us through the benefits and challenges of minimally invasive brain surgery, and explains why it’s a valuable approach for a variety of scenarios.
What is minimally invasive brain surgery?
We use the term “minimally invasive” for a number of different surgical specialties, but it typically indicates the use of a smaller approach versus the standard open approach. There isn’t one particular operation that classifies as such. Instead, it’s a concept that entails performing procedures from the smallest incision possible. Most of the time that means utilizing a small brain opening (or craniotomy) from a small, short incision, as opposed to a large incision on one side of the head with a large opening of the bone. And depending on the condition, it could also mean opting for something even smaller like an endoscope. This allows surgeons to go through a tiny opening in the skull or through the nose. In a nutshell, a minimally invasive technique basically refers to using a small approach, despite the deep and dangerous locations we have to treat in the brain.
What conditions do you treat with minimally invasive brain surgery?
In my practice, I find minimally invasive techniques most effective in treating tumors and cysts deep within the brain that don’t require us to open the entire head to get to the space needed.
What are the advantages of this type of surgery, and what can patients expect?
There are several advantages to minimally invasive surgery compared to traditional or open surgeries. One of the most significant benefits is smaller incisions and less pain following the procedure. The smaller openings also reduce the risk of infection and/or injury because we’re exposing less of the brain, making recovery time, healing and wound care very minimal. Additionally, minimally invasive surgeries also help diminish the psychological toll a significant operation can have on a patient because, in most circumstances, the surgery can happen without cutting a patient’s hair or shaving their head at the incision sight.
What are the risks associated with minimally invasive brain surgery?
While the small opening and approach are beneficial in many cases, some circumstances can be more challenging for providers who do not regularly perform it that way. If a provider doesn’t have the training to keep everything gentle and relaxed, the surgery could become too forceful, causing more harm than good despite using a minimally invasive approach. That’s one of the primary resistances to executing brain surgery in this way because getting into the skull and around the brain leaves you with very little space. That’s why having the background and training to safely and successfully carry out the procedure in this way is paramount.
People must understand that the size of the tumor or cyst does not dictate how big the incision or surgery will be. Many other factors about the location and what needs to be accomplished with the surgery must come into play. And as a surgeon specially trained in minimally invasive brain surgeries, I must take all those factors into account, because my goal is always to choose the least invasive surgery necessary for patients based on their specific needs and condition.
Moreover, while there are many reasons people would want to choose an academic university setting for their procedure, patients can feel confident that they’re getting the most up-to-date, cutting-edge treatments right here close to home. We have excellent brain surgeons here at Parkview, and we are happy to help you get back to feeling your best.