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Sharp Health News

Zeroing in on brain tumors

May 2, 2016

Zeroing in on brain tumors

Dr. Richard Ostrup, a neurosurgeon affiliated with Sharp HealthCare, uses the Zeiss  OPMI ® Pentero ® 900, a high-powered microscope to precisely pinpoint brain tumors during surgery.

When it comes to treating tumors in the brain, preciseness is paramount. Any damage to normal tissues can lead to changes in brain function, which can affect a patient’s ability to think, see, hear, speak or move.

It’s critical to limit these side effects as much as possible. For this reason, a suite of tools at Sharp HealthCare allows doctors to pinpoint tumors more accurately, both in the operating room and during radiation treatment.

Surgery is usually the first step in treating brain tumors, whether cancerous or benign. The goal is to remove as much tumor as possible, but this can be challenging while operating among such intricate structures in the brain.

At Sharp Memorial Hospital and Sharp Grossmont Hospital, a high-powered microscope called the Zeiss OPMI ® Pentero® 900 is helping to improve neurosurgeons’ accuracy by magnifying brain tissue and blood vessels in high-definition quality.

The advanced system also gives surgeons the ability to use fluorescence. This technique involves injecting a special dye into a patient’s blood stream. When viewed with a special filter on the microscope, the tumor appears to “light up,” allowing surgeons to easily distinguish them from neighboring normal brain tissue.

“Along with our high-powered navigation systems, these tools help us feel confident that we’ve removed as much of the tumor as possible,” says Dr. Vikram Udani, medical director for neurosurgery at Sharp HealthCare’s Laurel Amtower Cancer Institute and Neuro-Oncology Center.

Following surgery, radiation can be a critical component of treatment, but radiation oncologists face the same challenge of protecting healthy brain tissue. High-powered linear accelerators — a type of radiation-delivery machine — can limit radiation beams to about 5 millimeters in diameter, but brain tumors can still be smaller.

Elekta, a manufacturer of linear accelerators, utilizes Apex, a specialized device that attaches to the head of the machine, that can reduce the diameter of the beam to 2.5 millimeters, about the thickness of two stacked dimes. This allows highly precise and focused treatment for complex tumors within the brain, minimizing the risk of damage to healthy structures.

Doctors at Sharp Memorial and Sharp Grossmont use Apex in concert with Elekta’s HexaPOD™ evo RT System, a special table that patients lie upon during radiation treatment. The system lets doctors make tiny adjustments — as small as 1 millimeter in distance and within one degree of rotation — to the table’s position along six different axes in space, ensuring the patient is in the best position for treatment.

“The combination of these advanced technologies and the expertise of our team allow for highly effective treatment of brain tumors while minimizing risks,” says Dr. Siavash Jabbari, medical director for radiation oncology at the Neuro-Oncology Center.

May is Brain Tumor Awareness Month. Learn more about brain tumor care at Sharp HealthCare.

For the media: To talk with a Sharp doctor about tools to help treat brain tumors, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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