Baptist Health Paducah has new technology that offers sharper images during brain tumor surgery

May 06, 2022

This new technology allows for sharper images during brain tumor surgery

(Paducah, KY.) April 27, 2022- Baptist Health Paducah patients and neurosurgeons now have advanced technology to remove glioma brain tumors that are traditionally hard to see and fully remove.

Thomas Gruber, MD, neurosurgeon with Baptist Health Medical Group Neurosurgery, is the first neurosurgeon in Kentucky to use a new headlamp device with the assistance of an ingestible drug known as Gleolan, or 5-Aminolevulinic Acid (5-ALA), which fluoresces as a hot pink indicator when viewed under the blue light of the headlamp during surgery.

Glioblastoma is an aggressive type of cancer that can form in the brain or spinal cord with tumors called gliomas. Gliomas are the most common type of brain tumor in adults, with about 12,000 cases diagnosed each year in the United States. “Using the 5-ALA compound, we can now see these glioma cells that were previously camouflaged by healthy cells,” says Gruber. “Prior to using this new drug and technology, the procedure would have stopped before all of the tumor was removed because MRI’s and basic vision do not discern between healthy and malignant cells.”

A Cornell University neurosurgeon, Dr. Theodore Schwartz, was the first neurosurgeon in the United States to use the headlamp/5-ALA combo in March of 2021. “I had been watching his successful outcomes for the past year and I got really excited and asked the hospital to purchase the headlamp and 5-ALA.” 

March 2, 2022 marks the first successful surgery at Baptist Health Paducah using the new technology. “I am beyond grateful that Baptist Health Paducah realized the significance of this fairly inexpensive device as compared to other cost-prohibitive MRI machines that afford the same results by using the new headlamp and 5-ALA technology,” said Gruber.

Removing the maximum amount of tumor cells is critical to decreasing the chances of cancer recurrence. The new technology permits neurosurgeons to identify the full extent of a tumor within the brain. “Previously with these types of brain tumors, we haven’t had the ability to see if there are any residual amounts of a tumor left in the brain,” said Gruber. “Residual tumors are indistinguishable from normal brain matter.”

The custom headlamp, produced by Design for Vision, Inc. ®, and 5-ALA improve visualization for the surgical team to maximize the degree of brain tumor removal. The illumination of the malignant cells provides neurosurgeons with the ability to clearly and accurately identify the tumor in its entirety. Wearable fluorescence guided surgery (FGS), like the headlamp used by Gruber, provides surgeons freedom of movement and the ability to distinguish tumor tissue from normal tissue.

After surgery, patients can expect to be photosensitive for 48 hours and practice dark room precautions during this recovery period. All hospital staff are educated on the importance of following these safety measures to keep the patient guarded from any light sensitivity. 

Baptist Health Medical Group Neurosurgery is located in Medical Park 2, Suite 402 on the hospital campus. For more information, please call 270.443.6472.