High-tech surgical center saving young lives

January 29, 2009 6:58:53 PM PST
A new state of the art surgical center is helping to save the lives of some of the Bay Area's youngest patients. A look inside the center at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital where they're equipped to handle some of the most complex and often risky surgeries.

Todd and Shana Hamblin say doctors could not make sense of their daughter Devree's sudden loss of hearing and balance until a neurologist ordered tests on her brain.

"She read the MRI to us saying that our daughter had a brain tumor," says Devree's mother Shana.

That is when the family was referred to Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford, which has just opened what is being described as the most advanced pediatric surgery center on the West Coast.

"We have state of the art equipment that allows us to provide her just incredible care in the operating room," says Dr. Mike Edwards.

In a day-long operation, chief neurosurgeon Mike Edwards worked to remove Devree's tumor. His instruments were guided not only by experience, but a new computer system called BrainLAB that works something like a GPS.

"What this allows us to do is to be able recognize exactly where we're working in the brain itself. It tracks our instruments so that we can see where our instruments are in the brain and the tumor as we work," says Dr. Edwards.

The combination of pre-operative MRIs, which are layered with several other types of scans, result in a computerized three-dimensional map of the patient's brain which is synched up to the patient on the operating table by a GPS-type system. The surgical tools also have sensors allowing them to appear in the surgeon's viewfinder in their precise location on the map, increasing the odds of cutting the tumor without damaging surrounding tissue.

"So we can change her success rate from 40 percent to 80 percent by removal of all of her tumor with the use of the specialized equipment we have available to us," says Dr. Edwards.

The operating room is one of seven at the newly renovated surgical center.

As for Devree, the teenager's parents say her dream is to recover quickly enough to try out for a school play and to eventually become a writer.

"My hope is that she can realize that dream and be able to write a book," says Devree's father Todd.

Dr. Edwards was able to successfully remove Devree's brain tumor. She is now back home with her parents, and doctors are working on her follow-up treatment plan.