Radically New Type Of Surgery Tested On First Patient

Press briefing at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 22, in the Magnetic Surgery Center, Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Call Linda Sage or Nicole Vines at 286-0100 for information.

St. Louis, Dec. 21, 1998 -- Neurosurgeons have performed the first human magnetic surgery.

"This is a fundamentally new way of manipulating surgical tools within the brain that promises to be minimally invasive," says Ralph Dacey, M.D. "And it should be a safer way of doing brain surgery because it allows us to use a curved pathway to reach a target. Therefore we can go around sensitive structures, such as those that control speech or vision, instead of going through them."

Dacey is the Edith R. and Henry G. Schwartz Professor and head of neurological surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He is testing the new technology, called the Magnetic Surgery System (MSS), by biopsying five patients with tumors in the upper front part of the brain. A biopsy removes a small piece of tissue, enabling physicians to identify a tumor, determine whether it is malignant and plan appropriate treatment.

The first patient, a 31-year-old man, underwent the magnetic surgery Dec. 17 at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. Dacey used computer-controlled superconducting magnets to remotely direct a small flexible biopsy instrument into the patient's brain.

This advanced medical technology has been under development for more than a decade at universities and national laboratories throughout the United States. A St. Louis-based company called Stereotaxis Inc. is spearheading its commercial development.

"We expect the system to have a wide range of applications because it puts three components - visualization, localization and navigation - together for the first time, creating an interventional workstation," says Bevil Hogg, the company's CEO. "Future possibilities may include implanting electrodes into the brains of patients with movement disor

Contact: Linda Sage
Washington University School of Medicine

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