Neurosurgeons at UC San Diego Health System are using a new approach to visualize the brain’s delicate anatomy prior to surgery. The novel technique – called tractography or Diffusion Tensor Imaging – allows neurosurgeons to see the brain’s nerve connections thus preserving and protecting critical functions such as vision, speech and memory. No needles, dyes or chemicals are needed to create the radiology scan. The main imaging ingredient? Water. UC San Diego Health System neurosurgeons are among the first in America to apply this technology to guide brain tumor surgery.
“The brain can be mapped by tracking the movement of its water molecules,” said Clark Chen, MD, PhD, neurosurgeon and vice-chairman of neurosurgery at UC San Diego Health System. “Water molecules in brain nerves move in an oriented manner. However, outside the nerves, the molecules move randomly. Neurosurgeons at UC San Diego can use these distinct properties to locate important connections and to guide where surgery should occur or not.”
“There are no margins for error in the brain. Every centimeter of brain tissue contains millions of neural connections so every millimeter counts,” said Chen. “With tractography, we can visualize the most important of these connections to avoid injury. In doing so, we will preserve the quality of life for our patients with brain cancer.” The video above shows just how this neuroimaging technique visualizes the entire surrounding area of the tumor, providing a path for neurosurgeons.
“There is no way of predicting where these fibers would lie except with tractography,” said Chen. “I believe that many brain tumor patients will benefit from tractography-guided surgery. By observing the flow of water molecules, we can visually reconstruct the complex symphony of brain connections. The resulting images are not only accurate but breathtakingly beautiful, giving us a glimpse into the extraordinary human mystery of the brain.”
Read More/Source: http://health.ucsd.edu/news/releases/Pages/2013-11-27-tractography.aspx