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Attacking tumours

New technique claims to reach an unreachable brain tumor by using a tiny, inflatable balloon.

health and fitness Updated: Mar 13, 2004 12:35 IST

A U.S. brain surgeon said on Friday he had removed a normally unreachable brain tumor in a child by using a tiny, inflatable balloon in a new technique that could save thousands of lives.

The team at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center said the 9-year-old patient was doing well.

The surgeon said the technique, which involved inflating a balloon slowly over several days to open a pathway in the brain without damaging it, held hope for previously doomed brain cancer patients.

Caleb Madison of Crescent Spring, Kentucky, had a tumor in his thalamus -- an area deep within the brain that serves as a relay station for all sensory and motor functions.

"The vast majority of surgeons would consider this deep tumor inoperable and would be either unable to operate or unwilling to operate because of the risk involved," Dr. Kerry Crone, the neurosurgeon who did the operation, said in a statement.

"They would have biopsied the tumor and recommended radiation treatments, but the tumor would have enlarged and resulted in this young boy's death. I believe we have surgically cured this child of his brain tumor."

The operation took several days. First, Crone made a small opening in the child's skull, then used computerized targeting to guide a thin tube to the tumor.

The end of the catheter contained a deflated, cylindrical balloon. Over the course of several days, the balloon was slowly inflated, which spread the neurons apart and created what the surgeons hoped was a safe pathway to the tumor.

Crone was then able to reach and remove the tumor.

Before surgery his team used functional magnetic resonance imaging to map the targeted area and ensure that the operation could be done without paralyzing the patient.

First Published: Mar 13, 2004 12:35 IST