In this health video learn how careful planning with water is keeping patients undergoing brain surgery safe when they're under the knife.
Read the full transcript »
Jennifer Matthews: When Eden Mae Posey was diagnosed with a brain tumor, her mom Angela was stunned. Angela Hill: I just absolutely did not believe it. They just came in and said they found a gray area, and I just looked at them and said, what do you mean a gray area? Jennifer Matthews: Eden Mae needed surgery to remove the tumor. It's always a tricky operation. The brain contains thousands of nerve tracts, each in charge of a different function like speech, memory, motion even vision. One false move could cause major damage. Zoltan Patay: A few millimeters difference makes a big difference for the patient, for quality of life after the surgery. Jennifer Matthews: Surgeons previously had to look at scans to decide how to get to the tumor, but they didn't' know for sure where those important nerve tracts were. Now, researchers at St. Jude are using DTI, to plan surgery. First, patients have a standard MRI scan. Then, sophisticated computer software turns the images to color. Doctors can see every nerve tract in relation to the tumor. Zoltan Patay: This is spectacular. Every time I see it, it still impresses me. You know, it's really, every time is like the first time. Jennifer Matthews: DTI works by measuring the movement of water molecules in the brain. Each color shows a different nerve and the direction it runs. In this case, surgeons will want to avoid cutting through the red, green and blue wires to get to the tumor. Zoltan Patay: This is the first time that we can non-invasively predict where these fiber tracts are located. Jennifer Matthews: Doctors planned Eden Mae's surgery using the DTI method and were able to remove most of her tumor, an outcome they consider a success. This is Jennifer Matthews reporting.