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Less-invasive Brain Surgery Advantageous to Patients

At the Loyola University Hospital in Chicago, incising a big portion of the human skull or face and likewise exposing a big area of the brain have been replaced by less-invasive brain surgery techniques.

Dr. Edward Duckworth, assistant professor of neurological surgery at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, performs brain surgeries to remove tumors, repair brain aneurysms and reduce epilepsy seizures through smaller surgery incisions. “It’s not necessary to expose a large surface of the brain in order to access a small abnormality,” he said.

In an aneurysm repair he recently conducted, Dr. Duckworth cut an opening only about an inch and repaired the aneurysm with a small titanium clip. After the surgery, the patient, who also had a history of heart disease, was reportedly free of surgical complications and had no changes in his cognitive abilities. In a traditional brain surgery, the surgeon would have to slice a three-inch-wide and three-inch-high piece of skull and later reattach it with small plates and screws.

In certain cases, Dr. Duckworth gets through the nose in order to reach the brain and create a one-inch-wide opening in the skull. Surgical instruments pass through the nostrils. Dr. Duckworth views less-invasive sugery techniques as beneficial to patients. “Because the openings are smaller, less brain tissue is exposed,” he said. “There’s less blood loss. Surgery times are shorter, and patients spend less time in the hospital. It’s better cosmetically, too. Smaller incisions leave smaller scars.” But, according to him, smaller openings require meticulousness.

In a study conducted by Dr. Duckworth and a colleague, they reported that among the 201 patients that they followed up for a minimum of two years, 78 percent were free of the most disabling types of seizures and only 1.5 percent experienced complications after undergoing less-invasive surgery. Patients who underwent less invasive surgery techniques were also found to have stayed in the hospital for an average of 2.6 days, compared to seven days for those who underwent surgery with a larger opening.

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