Almost every advancement in modern day medicine is because a doctor has attempted to better the method in which he/she has done something in the past. Modern neurosurgery is no exception when it comes to this concept. Since it originated over 150 years ago, there has been a dramatic evolution in this field of medicine. Neurosurgeons of today have been able to treat a variety of structural lesions which affect the deepest recesses of the spinal cord and brain.
Complications have been minimized, despite the fact that these doctors are dealing with some of the most delicate tissues in the human body and this is in part due to the high level of intellect of pioneer surgeons, but also because there have been significant technological advancements in this field of medicine. One such advancement is the operating microscope, which allows the surgeon to have unparalleled visualization. Another advancement has come by the way of endovascular techniques, which allow the treatment of aneurysms and other vascular lesions to be performed through a catheter, versus a much more invasive open brain surgery. Also, since endoscopic surgery is now possible, surgeons can treat certain neurological conditions through minimally invasive corridors, which drastically reduces the patient’s recovery time.
Neurosurgery as a field has advanced most recently due to a technique where the physician actually applies a highly concentrated dose of radiation to a specific area of diseased tissue while avoiding overexposure of nearby tissue. This advancement is known as Stereotactic Radiation Therapy, or SRT. There have been much less precise methods of delivering radiation to damaged tissue for many decades.
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There is a low level of consequence when it comes to radiating a few extra inches of tissue when addressing a lung or breast tumor. However, this method of treatment is not acceptable when treating pathologies of the central nervous system because it will result in major collateral damage of nearby functioning neurological tissue, producing new neurological issues. The innovations in modern imaging and computing techniques have been driven by the need to accurately deliver such high doses of radiation to such specific areas within millimeter accuracy.
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With the advancement of these SRT techniques, patients who would have been told they needed open brain surgery now have another less invasive option. Thanks to SRT, some brain and spinal cord lesions which would have previously been too dangerous to treat are now able to be addressed. Such conditions which may now be addressed with this form of minimally invasive neurosurgery are benign and malignant brain tumors, vascular lesions, neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s, and even some pain syndromes such as Trigeminal Neuralgia.