Unique microscope aids hospital’s neurosurgeons

Neurosurgeon , Dr. Mark Liker describes the video playing the screen from a brain surgery produced by the new Zeiss Pentero 900 microscope used in advanced brain and spine surgery demonstrated at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital on Wednesday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Neurosurgeons at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital are able to better-serve patients in the community and perform advanced surgeries with the help of the hospital’s newest technology:  the Zeiss Pentero 900 microscope.

“It’s very special technology that we’re really happy to provide to the community,” Neurosurgeon Dr. Mark Liker said.  “We are able to provide top-level neurosurgery… and we provide it in our patients’ backyard.”

The $500,000 Zeiss microscope and its add-ons allow surgeons to navigate the brain through a computer, differentiate between brain tissue and tumors, work alongside assistants and ultimately save patients’ lives.

“We made a significant investment in this microscope,” said Patrick Moody, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital’s director of marketing and public relations.  “This will help our surgeons.”

Neurosurgeon , Dr. Mark Liker, left, adjusts the monitor so brain surgery patient Dan Gillespie , PhD, center, and his wife Carol can watch the video of Gillespie’s brain surgery produced by the new Zeiss Pentero 900 microscope which was demonstrated at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital on Wednesday. Dan Watson/The Signal

According to Liker, the hospital is one of three facilities in Los Angeles to own the technology.

“That indicates both the level of commitment of the hospital to neurosurgery here, and that the hospital realizes the community is growing and needs this,” he said.

The main benefit of the microscope is the ability for neurosurgeons to differentiate between healthy brain tissue and tumors, especially ones that form intrinsically within key areas of the brain.

In the past, Liker said the neurosurgeons would be less aggressive removing tissue in order to protect areas of the brain that are important to daily function, like speech and movement.

“The problem with many of these tumors… is that sometimes it’s very difficult to differentiate the bad tumor from the good brain,” Liker said.  “In cases where the tumors are in these very eloquent areas, we tend to hold back and resect (cut out) where we can, where we know there are tumors, but we don’t go beyond that.”

With the Zeiss Pentero 900, Liker and his fellow neurosurgeons are able to see the differences in tissue in real time using a dye called Yellow 560 and fluorescent lighting.

“We inject a dye into the vein and that dye travels to only brain tumor,” Liker said.  “We use a filter in the microscope to be able to identify that the dye is present in the tissue that tells us that it’s brain tumor.”

So, if the dye travels to an area, surgeons know it is a tumor, but if it does not, surgeons know it is healthy brain tissue.

Neurosurgeon , Dr. Mark Liker center, looks on as brain surgery patient Dan Gillespie , PhD, looks through the optical head of the new Zeiss Pentero 900 microscope which allows for advanced brain and spice surgeries and which was demonstrated at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital on Wednesday. Dan Watson/The Signal

The colorization and identification through the microscope has already been used to remove brain tumors from individuals in the area, like renowned physicist Dan Gillespie who was the first individual operated on with the technology Nov. 4, 2016.

“Everything fell into place.  I feel honored,” said Gillespie, whose tumor was located in the left temporal region of his brain.  “I am proud of myself and the doctor and the hospital for providing the equipment.”

Two and a half months after the surgery, Gillespie was able to give an honorary speech at the Gordon Research Conference where he spoke for 35 minutes.

Liker said Gillespie’s quick recovery after a surgery in a vital area of the brain was unusual.

“This is a paradigm shift for us to resect brain tumors in eloquent areas, in areas that are critical for brain function,” Liker said.

Liker and fellow neurosurgeon Dr. Parham Yashar said they look forward to being able to treat patients from the area and make procedures, like brain surgery, a little easier on patients and their families.

“This is the best scope around, it really is top of the line,” Liker said.  “People no longer have to go over the hill to be treated; we can treat them right here.”

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