Previously inoperable deep brain tumors, clots now within reach

UC Irvine Health among the first in Southern California to use BrainPath

October 07, 2015

Not long ago, patients with deep-seated brain tumors and blood clots would have been told their condition was inoperable. Thanks to UC Irvine Health neurosurgeon Dr. Jefferson W. Chen and a tool called NICO BrainPath®, those patients now have a treatment option.

Reaching and removing those tumors and clots while preserving brain function is one of the most difficult challenges in neurosurgery. Traditional neurosurgery requires the surgeon to cut through brain tissue in order to access abnormalities. A 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.

“With BrainPath, we can now reach deep areas of the brain without damaging critical nerves and tissue,” Chen said. “This gives our patients not only a new treatment option, but a potentially better recovery outcome than was possible before.”

UC Irvine Medical Center is one of the first Southern California hospitals to offer BrainPath. Chen pioneered its use on the West Coast prior to joining UC Irvine Health last year. Since then he has performed 30 successful operations, removing deep tumors, clots and other traditionally inoperable abnormalities while enabling patients to recover with minimal damage.

“Minimally invasive procedures like BrainPath are at the forefront of modern neurosurgery, enabling us to treat the most serious kinds of brain conditions while preserving brain function,” said Dr. Frank Hsu, chairman of the UC Irvine Health Department of Neurosurgery. “Some conditions are best treated surgically, and these technically advanced options require smaller incisions. Our patients may benefit from faster recovery time, shorter hospital stays, and reduced scarring and trauma to surrounding tissue.”

During the procedure, the surgeon accesses the brain through a dime-sized opening in the skull, and guided by brain imaging and GPS navigation technology, uses the BrainPath tool to remove the tumor or clot. When the tool and abnormality are removed, the brain tissue moves back into place.

UC Irvine Health comprises the clinical, medical education and research enterprises of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UC Irvine Health at physician offices throughout Orange County and at its main campus, UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, Calif., a 411-bed acute care hospital that provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, behavioral health and rehabilitation. U.S. News & World Report has listed it among America’s Best Hospitals for 15 consecutive years. UC Irvine Medical Center features Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, high-risk perinatal/neonatal program, Level I trauma center and Level II pediatric trauma center, and is the primary teaching hospital for UC Irvine School of Medicine. UC Irvine Health serves a region of more than 3 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the University of California, Irvine: Currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $4.8 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit

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