What is Image Guided Surgery?

Navigated Surgery

Today, doctors are using computerized technologies to help them fight cancer in the operating room. An important example of this is image guided surgery (IGS), which helps surgeons perform safer and less invasive [1] procedures and helps in the management of metastatic brain tumors.

Computer navigation has been widely used in neurosurgery for almost two decades [1]. According to a study in 2000, researchers were already expecting that a large portion of neurosurgery procedures in the future would be performed using computer-based technologies [2].

Your doctor may suggest that you would benefit from surgery for tissue diagnosis, symptom relief, metastasis management or to help prepare for additional treatments for your brain metastases. If you are considering surgery, you may be interested in learning more about image guidance technologies, also referred to as stereotaxy, surgical navigation, computer assisted surgery, navigated surgery or stereotactic navigation.

Similar to a car or mobile Global Positioning System (GPS), image guided surgery systems use cameras or electromagnetic fields to show the location of the patient and the surgeon’s instruments. These locations are then shown on computer monitors in the operating room and compared to scans of the patient taken before surgery. This way, the surgeon can see where the tumor is and where they are inside the patient.

Doctors and surgical staff can:

  • Measure the position, size and location of a patient’s brain tumor
  • Plan the craniotomy, or opening in the skull, in relation to the brain tumor
  • Track the surgical instruments in relationship to the patient’s brain and tumor itself
  • Identify and account for changes in the brain position and shape during the procedure

Consider asking your doctor questions about image guided surgery to understand if this type of technology would be beneficial for your type of brain metastases.

After every surgery, patients usually have to stay in intensive care for one to four days and can expect one to two weeks of further hospitalization, as well as other surgery-related risks. Surgery always has to be weighed against other treatment options. When surgery isn’t necessary because of the symptoms caused by the tumor, the decision between surgery and stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) is mostly a matter of patient preference, accessibility to SRS, and insurance coverage. An increasing number of patients demand SRS. As one of the most advanced cancer treatment options available, SRS is changing the face of cancer treatment. SRS has already helped thousands of people continue to go to work, spend time with family and friends, and take part in their favorite activities, all while fighting cancer.

Visit Understand Radiation Therapy for Brain Metastases to learn more about stereotactic radiosurgery.

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3627858/
[2] Kelly PJ. What is past is prologue. Neurosurgery. 2000 Jan; 46(1):16-27.