Overcoming fear of brain tumour: How futuristic machines are making surgery safer

Compared to several other types of tumours, brain tumours are more likely to be benign. But their surgeries are very risky, and that is changing fast.
Overcoming fear of brain tumour: How futuristic machines are making surgery safer
Overcoming fear of brain tumour: How futuristic machines are making surgery safer
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When 38-year-old Aparna (name changed) walked into Dr Shyam Sundar Krishnan’s office at Kauvery Hospital a few weeks ago, he couldn’t help but notice how thin and weak she looked. For years she had been having blurry vision and dizziness, but being a middle-class homemaker with two children, she ignored her symptoms. Her symptoms were early signs of a brain tumour, and medical tests later confirmed it.

“When we conveyed the diagnosis to her, she became extremely fearful,” narrates Dr Shyam, Senior Consultant - Brain and Spine Surgeon, Kauvery Hospital. “The fear is justified, brain tumour is tough to deal with and surgeries are complex. But I do feel that people often get too scared, and they need not,” he says. Thanks to the digital age’s representation of brain tumour as a deadly illness, people have an inherent fear of brain tumour which is often overstated.

For one, unlike tumours in organs like the lungs, brain tumours are often benign. “About 40-50% of the tumours are benign in India,” Dr Shyam points out, but adds that the reason brain tumours are to be feared, and treated with expertise and care, is that the surgeries can be complicated. But that too is changing.

Digital map for your brain, in 3D

The brain is a tough organ to operate on, and often patients could leave the operating table with life-long disabilities. But two cutting-edge systems, Neuronavigation and the 4K 3D Robotic Visualisation, have made brain surgeries far more safer than a few years ago.

So, how exactly have these machines revolutionised the way we do brain surgeries?

“The Neuronavigation System is like a GPS system, it tells me where I am with respect to the human brain. During surgery, when I am drilling into the skull, there is no way for me to know what is behind. I would have to imagine. But with Neuronavigation, I know where I am and where I am going,” explains Dr Shyam.

Essentially, using the Neuronavigation System is like following a digital map when we drive on the road. “Earlier, we had to stop, look around at each turn and then move ahead, now we just have to follow the map,” he explains.

Dr Shyam Sundar Krishnan, Senior Consultant - Brain and Spine Surgeon, Kauvery Hospital

This is a game-changer for surgeons, and patients, since it has led to better outcomes and higher tumour clearance rates. Take Aparna’s case, for instance. She had a tumour below the brain, behind her eyes. Without Neuronavigation, Dr Shyam would have taken the longer route inside the skull, and moved very cautiously. “But with the help of the navigator, I could drill into the brain peacefully. I could approach the tumour more confidently, in a trajectory which was clear to me. I knew where the nerves were, I didn’t have to worry,” he explains.

“I could have still done the surgery without the Neuronavigation, but there would be more blood loss for the patient, and the surgery would have been longer,” he says, “The difference is similar to the one between daytime driving and driving at night.”

Further, with a 3D microscope called the 4K 3D Robotic Visualisation, surgeons like Dr Shyam can now visualise the brain in 3D models before and during the surgery.

“Like any microscope, the machine helps us see the tumour better. But it also has 3D imaging, so we have a better perception of the brain when we operate,” he says.

“During the surgery, if we move away to check something else, we find it very difficult to find our way back into position. But with this microscope, the screen returns to the original position with the press of a button,” he explains.

The Neuronavigation System.

This equipment also has a fluorescent dye which differentiates the tumour from other parts through a special filter. But all these equipment are rendered useless without a strong surgical team. “Nothing can substitute the expertise and experience of a good surgical team. We have one of the most advanced neurosurgery centres in the country, manned by our expert team of neurosurgeons,” Dr Shyam says.

This article was created by TNM Brand Studio in association with Kauvery Hospital, and not by TNM Editorial.

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