New Approach to Removing Nerve Tumors

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Now a new technique in imaging is giving surgeons a precise roadmap to removing the tumors. (KFSN)

Peripheral nerves connect the spinal cord to the rest of the body. Damage to these delicate nerves can lead to pain, loss of sensation and even paralysis. When a patient has a nerve tumor, surgeons must be especially careful to navigate around these crucial nerve fibers. Now a new technique in imaging is giving surgeons a precise roadmap to removing the tumors.

When Ryan Rendino started pumping up his workouts last year, not only did he gain strength, he noticed a mass growing on the right side of his neck.

Rendino told Ivanhoe, "Initially, I thought I was just taking things a little too quickly."

But when the lump didn't go away, Ryan saw his doctor.

"What it ended up being was that I had a tumor in my neck," Ryan admitted.

Michel Kliot, MD, Neurosurgeon at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago says most of the time these peripheral nerve tumors are benign and slow-growing, but removing them has risks.

Dr. Kliot told Ivanhoe, "If it's unrecognized that the tumor comes from the nerve, then you can damage the nerve."

With traditional surgery, "You can't really see where the mass comes from and you can't tell where you might enter the tumor," Dr. Kliot explained.

Now, an advance in imaging known as diffusion tensor imaging or DTI is changing that.

Dr. Kliot said, "And now we are able to see not only the mass, but we can actually see the spinal cord and the nerves coming off the spinal cord."

DTI is a type of MRI imaging that gives surgeons a direct roadmap to removing the tumor during surgery.

"We can actually tell where they are arising from the nerve and how best to approach it," Dr. Kliot explained.

In Ryan's case, "We were able to remove it in a single piece," Dr. Kliot told Ivanhoe.

Now he's back to his active lifestyle and taking care of his dog Thumper.

Diffusion tensor imaging has long been used to map the brain, but surgeons at Northwestern are the first to use these colorful blueprints to help remove tumors tangled up in peripheral nerves. Doctors hope to eventually use the technology for other parts of the body as well.

For more information on this report, please contact:

Michel Kliot, MD

Northwestern Medicine Neurosurgeon

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