A central Iowa hospital is among the first in the United States to use a new type of surgery on brain tumors that once had been inoperable. Dr. Robert Kerr of Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines is one of two oncologists in the country conducting this type of surgery.

“The thing that’s very new here is really using a culmination of several available technologies within surgical world,” Kerr says. “The approach here is being kind of termed by those of us who’re using it as the six pillar approach.” Kerr talks more about some of the individual processes used.

“Imaging, live nuero-navigation during surgery, improved access to the subcortical regions of the brain, and then taking advantage also of enhanced optics with video telescopes, and then resection with a tool that doesn’t generate any heat in the brain while we’re working,” Kerr says.

One of the features of the surgery is a port used to access the brain that is shaped like a pipe, and it does less damage.

“We literally split and displace fibers rather than retract, tear or cause compression stroke of the fibers,” Kerr explains. He says the port is very small at 11 millimeters in diameter, or the actual size as a U.S. dime.

Kerr says using the high-tech instruments allows him to see the area where the tumor is located and get it out without causing a lot of additional damage. “When we minimize our footprint as surgeons and maximize the removal of pathology, in every instance that results in a much better outcome and a shorter hospital stay and less detriment or injury from what we as surgeons do for our patients,” Kerr says.

He says it allows a doctor to remove a tumor that they would not have removed in the past for fear the surgery would do more harm to the brain. Kerr says they believe the process could be used in many cases.

Now that we have the technology readily available, we’ve looked retrospectively at the types of cases we would be looking at. For example — intercerebral hemorrhages, or hypertensive strokes as we call them — we would probably see about one of those a week that would benefit from this type of technology.

Kerr says he’s so far done seven successful surgeries using this procedure.