A Closer Look at Laser Interstitial Thermal Therapy

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VIDEO | 01:49

MSK neurosurgeon Nelson Moss explains how LITT, a minimally invasive technique, can be used to destroy brain tumors with pinpoint precision.

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Dr. Nelson Moss

LITT, or laser interstitial thermal therapy, is a minimally invasive option for ablating tumors from the inside out. This technology allows us to use a really tiny skin incision to go through the normal brain with a very small probe that can heat a tumor and kill it.

LITT is a really good option for patients with deep, oftentimes inoperable, tumors. We often reserve it for patients who have already had radiation, where the tumor grew back, or the tumor became very inflamed.

The whole procedure is done within an MRI scanner. We get a very high-resolution MRI scan. Next, we place what's called a tower on the patient's scalp. Then we go in and we often will take a biopsy. We'll often get a few scans to make sure that everything is aligned in the way that lets us get our needle and our ablation device exactly where we need it.

We'll then go ahead and take another type of MRI scan, which is called MR thermography — or a measurement of the temperature very precisely within the brain — and place the laser probe within the tumor itself and slowly heat the tumor while measuring the temperature in the tumor and several points around it to make sure that we're therapeutically ablating the area we want to while preserving the normal brain around it.

One advantage of this procedure is that since the incision is so small, the recovery from that compared to open surgery is really terrific. Patients almost always go home the next day, doing well and having their tumor treated effectively.

I would choose MSK for a LITT procedure because we're a center that is focused exclusively on cancer and tumors of the brain. And we have a lot of experience in using this and developing this and taking care of patients with difficult-to-treat brain tumors.