At MSK, our pediatric neurosurgeons care deeply about finding better ways to treat and cure cancer.
If your child needs neurosurgery, MSK’s neurosurgeons in New York City can help. A pediatric neurosurgeon is a doctor with special training in surgery on the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and nerves). They treat children and adolescents.
MSK’s pediatric neurosurgeons are experts in methods that make surgery more precise than ever before. Other surgeons from around the world come to MSK to learn new surgery methods. MSK’s surgical facilities all have the latest equipment available anywhere.
Children have the best chance of a full recovery when surgery safely removes all of the tumor. Not every neurosurgeon has the skills and experience to meet that goal. MSK pediatric neurosurgeons aim to completely remove all types of brain tumors, even ones that have spread.
MSK Kids pediatric brain tumor service works as a team to choose the best treatment for each child. We may suggest surgery for kids with brain tumors. MSK Kids also offers other treatments, such as medication and proton beam radiation therapy.
Your child may be able to have promising treatment options available through research studies, known as clinical trials. Learn more about brain tumor care at MSK Kids.
The types of pediatric brain and spinal cord tumors MSK treats
Our pediatric neurosurgeons are national experts in the latest methods and treat even the most complex tumors. We have treat children with:
- Tumors in the brain stem, which connects the brain to the spinal cord. Our surgeons are experts in diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) care.
Intraventricular tumors. Intraventricular (IN-truh-ven-TRIH-kyoo-ler) tumors are in the ventricles (cavities) filled with fluid deep inside the brain. They include:
- Subependymoma (SUB-eh-PEN-dih-MOH-muh)
- Subependymal (SUB-eh-PEN-dih-mul) giant cell astrocytoma (AS-troh-sy-TOH-muh)
- Colloid cysts
- Pineal region tumors that start in the pineal gland, such as pineoblastoma (PIH-nee-oh-blas-TOH-muh) and germ cell tumors.
- Medulloblastoma (MED-yoo-loh-blas-TOH-muh), which starts in the cerebellum (lower back part of the brain).
- Skull base tumors such as pituitary gland tumors and craniopharyngiomas (KRAY-nee-oh-fuh-RIN-jee-OH-muhs).
- Tumors in the part of the brain called the hypothalamus.
- Benign (not cancer) astrocytomas, which often are cured just with surgery.
MSK Kids pediatric neurosurgeons use the latest methods
MSK Kids pediatric neurosurgeons in New York City often use minimally invasive methods to treat spinal cord and brain tumors. Minimally invasive procedures use smaller incisions (cuts) and do less harm to the body.
Our surgeons can treat some pediatric brain tumors through these small cuts, using very thin instruments. They’re guided by tiny cameras and real-time magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) guidance. They use an approach called navigational planning.
The procedure causes less pain, has a faster recovery, and can shorten your child’s stay in the hospital. Your child can get back to their normal activities sooner.
Our pediatric neurosurgeons use the latest neurosurgery methods to treat spinal cord and brain tumors in kids. They include:
- Minimally invasive endoscopic neurosurgery. This endoscopic surgery uses a transnasal route. That means it’s done through the nostrils, with no incisions outside the body. Our surgeons are known for using this method for young children with pituitary tumors and craniopharyngiomas (KRAY-nee-oh-fuh-RIN-jee-OH-muhz).
Another way we do minimally invasive neurosurgery is through the brain’s ventricles. These are the brain’s natural fluid compartments.
MSK neurosurgeons are the world’s leading experts on this type of endoscopic surgery. Our endoscopic surgeons have simpler and safer ways to treat intraventricular brain tumors that are hard to reach. They offer endoscopic surgery for germ cell tumors, pineal region tumors, and colloid cysts.
- Laser interstitial thermal therapy (LITT) can treat tumors that in the past were once considered inoperable (cannot be treated with surgery). Such tumors are in places that are hard to reach, or in an important part of the brain. Examples are hypothalamic tumors and thalamic gliomas. They now can be treated through small incisions.
Guided by MRI, LITT uses high laser heat to kill the tumor. Other names for LITT are MRI-guided laser ablation, and thermal ablation.
- Image-guided direct drug delivery. Our surgeons were among the first in the world to give drugs right into brain tumors using very small catheters. This method does not put toxic (harmful) drugs into the whole body. It puts the largest amount of a drug right into the tumor, where it’s needed most.
- Intraoperative radiation therapy is a high dose of radiation given during surgery to remove a tumor. Intraoperative means a treatment given during surgery. The radiation is directly placed on the tumor cavity during surgery. This method keeps normal tissue safe from radiation, including the scalp, hair, skin, and brain.
How MSK research improves pediatric neurosurgery
- Brain tumor research. Our neurosurgeons work on laboratory research and research studies in people, also known as clinical trials. They’re exploring treatments for children with brain tumors that for now cannot be treated.
Your child may be able to join a clinical trial. MSK is a major research institution, and you may have access to new treatments not yet available at most hospitals.
- Learning from brain tumor tissue. By working with an organization called Gift from a Child, MSK Kids is storing brain tumor tissue donated by families whose children died from a brain tumor. Scientists are studying this tumor tissue. They hope to learn more about how brain tumors develop and why cancers can keep growing after treatment.
- Improving drug delivery to the brain. MSK Kids is national leader in developing ways to deliver drugs to treat childhood brain tumors that surgery cannot remove.
It can be very hard to get drugs to brain tumors because of something called the blood-brain barrier. This is a network of blood vessels and tissue that protects the brain. It’s not easy for drugs to travel through the blood-brain barrier’s tight seal to treat brain tumors.
Our surgeons use the latest methods for safer, better brain tumor treatments. These advanced methods include convection-enhanced delivery (CED), MR-guided focused ultrasound (MRg-FUS), and intra-arterial drug delivery.