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SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital

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Success in the first laser thermal ablation performed in Spain on a child with a brain tumour

This is a very new surgical technique that is being performed in very few European centres due to its complexity

A team of more than 15 professionals from the SJD Barcelona Children’s Hospital has performed, for the first time on a child in Spain, laser thermal ablation to destroy a benign tumour in the brain. The patient, a 14-year-old boy,  expressly travelled from Kazakhstan to undergo this intervention that is currently being carried out in very few European centres due to its complexity. 

The child had a hamartoma, or abnormal accumulation of non-cancerous cells, in an area near the hypothalamus and the limbic system, which caused him to have between 8 and 9 very severe and prolonged epileptic seizures every day. 

The medical team that treated him in his country ruled out conventional surgery because it involved great danger, since the hamartoma was located in a deep part of the brain, which is difficult to access and close to areas of great sensitivity. They opted to refer him to the Neurosurgery Service of SJD Barcelona Children’s Hospital to undergo a laser thermal ablation, a very novel surgical technique that until that point had only been performed on adults in Spain

This intervention involves using laser light to destroy the hamartoma. It is a less invasive and safer technique than traditional surgery that allows the patient to recover in a shorter time and return home within 24-48 hours. It is especially indicated for the destruction of tumours or hamartomas which are small and located in a deep area of the brain. 

The intervention, step by step

The video at the top of the page shows the steps that are followed in laser thermal ablation.

  1. The patient is taken to the operating room and sedated. The Neurosurgery team makes incisions in the skull in order to introduce a laser probe, with the help of a robotic arm.
  2. The child is transferred to the Diagnostic Imaging Service and undergoes an MRI scan.
  3. During the MRI, neurosurgeons and radiologists verify that the probe is at the lesion site and, if not, they move it there. Once at the lesion site, heat is applied to it repeatedly until it is destroyed. The MRI gives them very precise information about the margins of the hamartoma and allows them to destroy only tumour cells, avoiding bleeding and possible complications. 

The intervention was carried out on April 1rt 2019 and lasted 6 hours. Fifteen days later the patient was discharged and able to return to his country. Currently, the child is very well, without deficits or sequelae and his seizures have completely disappeared.