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Pathway through brain can improve stroke survival

October 28, 2015 | John Murray
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Stroke remains one of the country’s top causes of death and disability. While advances in treating the more common ischemic stroke include the clot busting drug tPA and catheters that capture and remove clots, there is no clearly effective treatment for intracerebral hemorrhages. 

This type of stroke is caused by bleeding in the cerebrum, the largest part of the brain and poses a dilemma for physicians. Open brain surgery and clot-dissolving drugs each carry the risk of causing further neurological damage. Removing the clot offers the patient the best opportunity for a speedy, full recovery, but the open brain surgery it requires may harm nearby healthy tissue. Waiting for the clot to dissolve continues to deprive the brain of vital oxygen.

New treatment, better patient recovery

However, the advent of minimally invasive brain surgery techniques has changed the playing field. These new techniques allow access to the brain that just a few years ago would have required massive incisions, lengthy recoveries and were often accompanied by complications like infection.

In two studies led by UC Irvine Health neurosurgeon Dr. Jefferson W. Chen, the BrainPath surgical tool, guided by stereotactic imaging, has proven to be effective in removing intracerebral hemorrhages and helping to improve patient outcomes.

“Until the development of minimally invasive surgical techniques, the prognosis for intracerebral hemorrhage patients has generally been poor,” Chen said. “Our team conducted a retrospective review of patients who received BrainPath surgical treatment at UC Irvine Medical Center and found a trend toward shorter hospital stays, better functional recovery and preservation of surrounding healthy brain tissue.”

Preserving brain tissue

Traditional neurosurgery requires the surgeon to cut through brain tissue in order to access abnormalities. The minimally invasive approach using BrainPath permits the surgeon to gently separate and safely move through the brain’s natural folds and millions of delicate fibers, preserving brain functions while accessing deep-seated tumors and clots.

Chen’s studies were presented at this month’s 13th Annual Neurocritical Care Society meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Learn more about UC Irvine Health neurosurgery services ›

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