Malignant brain tumors are difficult to cure with any method, but laser ablation is an effective option for treating brain tumors in a way that avoids opening up the brain and risking complicated side effects.
"The primary advantage is that you can potentially accomplish the same goals in a minimally invasive manner," Mamelak said.
In patients with malignant brain tumors, the procedure is most commonly used when a brain metastasis has failed radiation. The laser can treat any radiation necrosis alongside the metastasis. Laser ablation can be an effective option for tumors located in the thalamus, basal ganglia structures or deep in the brain, where open surgery is typically not available.
In addition to tumors, laser ablation can make a meaningful difference in the lives of patients suffering from epilepsy.
To be a good candidate, patients must have a known seizure focus that can be safely reached with a probe. The surgeon also must be able to ensure the area can be covered by the volume of the ablation.
"If the area is too large, ablation is not a good option. There are limits to how big of an area you can ablate," Mamelak said.
Laser ablation is often appropriate for patients with mesial temporal lobe epilepsy, the most common form of focal epilepsy involving the amygdala and the hippocampus. Focal cortical dysplasia and hypothalamic hamartoma can also both be addressed with laser therapy due to the location and size of the seizure focus.