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Using Sound Waves For Outpatient Neurosurgery

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the so-that's-what-dr-mccoy-used-in-star-trek-4 dept.

Biotech 152

eldavojohn writes "Got a piece of malfunctioning brain tissue in your head? Want to avoid messy lobotomies and skull saws? Well, you're in luck; a study shows that acoustic waves can do the trick and will hopefully treat patients with disorders like Parkinson's disease. A specialist said, 'The groundbreaking finding here is that you can make lesions deep in the brain — through the intact skull and skin — with extreme precision and accuracy and safety.' They focus beams on the part of the brain needing treatment and it absorbs the energy, which turns to heat. The temperature hits about 130 F, and they can burn 10 cubic millimeters at a time. Using an MRI to see areas of heat, they can watch the whole time and target only what needs to be burned. The study consisted of nine subjects suffering from chronic pain that did not subside with medication (normally they need to go in and destroy a small part of the thalamus on these patients). After the outpatient procedure, all nine reported immediate pain relief and none experienced neurological problems or other side effects after surgery."

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careful now (-1, Troll)

pha7boy (1242512) | more than 5 years ago | (#28771685)

here's to needing surgery in multiples of 10mm3. cos if you need 15mm3 removed, you're SOL.

Re:careful now (2, Insightful)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 5 years ago | (#28771747)

Unless, of course, you have the regions overlap.

Re:careful now (2, Insightful)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772131)

Sorry but this comment is just a whole bunch of fail -- first of all, neither you nor I know how this process works. First off, you are complaining about the deficiencies of something we have never been able to do before? You do realize that the alternative is cutting open your skull and digging around in your brain, right? And then it never states in the article that the size is fixed at 10mm3 (although it very well might be) and even if it is, I am fairly certain that they would have figured out a way around this deficiency, like, you know, overlapping treatment regions or something?

I can see... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28771715)

...this becoming an easy-to-use, new, important tool in our government's management of us.

(As an aside I notice that more and more of my posts are made as AC due to my increasing paranoia.)

Re:I can see... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28772129)

oh they know who you are cowardon, they know who you are.

Re:I can see... (2, Funny)

Bitch-Face Jones (588723) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772273)

don't worry, the tinfoil should block the acoustic waves

HI, FU! (1)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 5 years ago | (#28771749)

High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is different from the ultrasound used for diagnostic purposes, such as prenatal screening. Using a specialized device, high-intensity ultrasound beams are focused onto a small piece of diseased tissue, heating it up and destroying it.

this sounds like it could be a good video game!

What happens... (-1, Troll)

Mr. Firewall (578517) | more than 5 years ago | (#28771751)

... when this is used on a blonde?

Re:What happens... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28771839)

The air inside her head would expand blowing out her eardrums.

Re:What happens... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28772067)

The groundbreaking finding here is that you can make lesions deep in the brain

trick question, blondes don't have brains

Re:What happens... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28772609)

When she was still a redhead. You do know that the different between a redhead and a blond is little more then the redhead hasn't had all the fire fucked out of her yet don't you?

Re:What happens... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772889)

Blondes are only dumb because bleach causes brain damage. So I think this technique may be applicable...

Q-BTW, how can you tell if a blond has been using your computer?
A-There's whiteout on the screen.

Q-How many blondes does it take to change a lightbulb?
A-None, some horney man will change it for her.

Q-How many blond feminists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A-THAT'S NOT FUNNY YOU FUCKING PIG!

Q- Why was the parent post modded "offtopic"?
A- The moderator was blonde!

Very cool, but... (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28771755)

This is fantastic technology but it also helps to illustrate the reason we are currently in the health care mess - i.e. spiraling prices. The cost associated with this treatment is so great that the benefit enjoyed by the recipient can never be paid off by their gain of function.

That is to say, if these patients wouldn't have been treated they would have made X amount of money. With treatment they may make marginally more, lets say X+Y. However, since Y is only maringally more, over the lifetime of the patient the sum of the Y can never equal the initial investment of the surgery. Thus the bill is ultimately covered by us, that is society, in one way or another. Either the bill is footed by the insurance company which will raise the rates for those involved, or by the hospital, which will then seek out for government aid to stay afloat.

Realistically we need to start realizing that not every person DESERVES the best treatment, because the best treatment is so costly that society can never regain that investment. To think otherwise is to bankrupt ourselves.

Re:Very cool, but... (3, Insightful)

TerranFury (726743) | more than 5 years ago | (#28771807)

You'd think that an outpatient procedure like this would be considerably cheaper than the traditional alternative. For a while the technology will be expensive, but the cost will come down, whereas the cost of human labor (i.e., of surgeons and nurses) will not. So in the long run, perhaps this is cheaper.

Re:Very cool, but... (2, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28771899)

whereas the cost of human labor (i.e., of surgeons and nurses) will not.

Eventually though it might. Eventually automated machines can take care of a lot of stuff. While surgeries might have to have more human intervention, eventually all minor procedures and general care-taking could be done via machine. So while for the foreseeable future you would need a human surgeon, in the two weeks you are in the hospital you might not need hardly any other people to take care of you.

Re:Very cool, but... (2, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 5 years ago | (#28771949)

I concur. Chances are that this new kind of acoustic brain surgery will sooner be cheaper than a ticket to a Metallica concert.

Re:Very cool, but... (5, Funny)

Abreu (173023) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772445)

I concur. Chances are that this new kind of acoustic brain surgery will sooner be cheaper than a ticket to a Metallica concert.

Which is appropiate, since both have the potential to damage your brain

Re:Very cool, but... (2, Interesting)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772557)

For a while the technology will be expensive, but the cost will come down, whereas the cost of human labor (i.e., of surgeons and nurses) will not. So in the long run, perhaps this is cheaper.

I suspect that sometime in the near future (10 to 25 years), that most surgeries will not involve a human being for the operation itself.

For all its worth, I suspect America will never political solve the problem with Universal Healthcare, but technology will eventually fill in the gap.

At the cost of how many lives in the meantime until that day...

Re:Very cool, but... (2, Informative)

StellarFury (1058280) | more than 5 years ago | (#28773301)

Well, it'll get cheaper until we finally hit that impending shortage of helium (http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.08/helium.html) - you know, that situation where virtually all of the helium in the world comes from one deposit in Texas, and the well's running dry. It's also, at the moment, completely unrecoverable, as when it gasifies and escapes, it simply floats to the farthest reaches of the atmosphere.

When that happens, the price of performing MRI will skyrocket. MRI needs superconducting electromagnets, and when helium (and thus liquid helium) goes, superconductors go too.

So, until we get metallic, or at least, non-ceramic, high-k superconductors, or find a way to recover or synthesize helium (Hi, hydrogen fusion!) ... this, and most other NMR-based technologies, are just going to get more expensive.

Re:Very cool, but... (4, Insightful)

flerchin (179012) | more than 5 years ago | (#28771903)

You are logically correct. However, you would never get real people to go along with such a system because people quickly go illogical when their own lives, or the lives of loved ones are on the line. We are much more likely to have a healthcare system paid for by a preset percentage of the economy, the size of which will be quite large.

Logic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28772099)

Of course "logically" he is correct but, we all know that logic is the way to arrive at the wrong answer with confidence.

Re:Very cool, but... (5, Insightful)

FireHawk77028 (770487) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772687)

Try taking ethics. If we followed your slippery slope logic we'd start killing people when they hit retirement age. After all, they'll never again go back to work and 'pay back' their value after they start collecting social security. Same for the mentally retarded, just drown them right?

"Realistically we need to start realizing that not every person DESERVES the best treatment". And who decides that?

New procedures are always expensive, do you think the first x-ray machines were worth the cost to say "yup, you got a broken leg son". Now they are standard practice.

"so costly that society can never regain that investment". Public education is costly, if a kid isn't learning and behaving by second grade should society perform a retroactive abortion? After all without an education they'll just be a burden on society, and its not worth paying for the education if they aren't being productive, why not save the money for the other years of school?

Did you have a 4.0 GPA in school? what about college? How much are you contributing to society now? I'm not so sure I am getting back my investment in you. Most of the education system in the world are funded by tax dollars.

What about no child left behind? Why don't we get real efficient and just let them starve? They'll never pay enough in taxes to 'regain investment'.

Re:Very cool, but... (1)

notarockstar1979 (1521239) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772817)

if a kid isn't learning and behaving by second grade should society perform a retroactive abortion?

I would have been dead long before second grade were that the case.

Retroactive abortion... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28773199)

I much prefer language like "60th trimester abortion", but that requires me to do math...

Re:Very cool, but... (1)

Ifandbut (1328775) | more than 5 years ago | (#28773519)

What about every child left behind?

FIFY

Re:Very cool, but... (0)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 5 years ago | (#28773745)

Try taking ethics. If we followed your slippery slope logic we'd start killing people when they hit retirement age. After all, they'll never again go back to work and 'pay back' their value after they start collecting social security. Same for the mentally retarded, just drown them right?

You say that like we're supposed to think "oh no, that could never happen", but have you seen Denmark recently? They don't just go out and kill people explicitly, sure; you make it a social thing. Guilt them into it. [firstthings.com] Or, wait until they're sick and miserable and provide no meaningful outlets for palliative care. There's lots of ways you can do it. And the retarded?

When I phoned Amsterdam's Academic Medical Center, a spokeswoman told me that she approved of involuntary euthanasia for disabled infants: "It is the same in all the hospitals in the world; we are just more open about it." Most hospitals try heroically to save disabled children, but the contrary view seems to be widely held among the Dutch.

--The Dutch Way of Death, The Wall Street Journal [opinionjournal.com]

Re:Very cool, but... (1)

FireHawk77028 (770487) | more than 5 years ago | (#28774101)

It does happen, it has happened. It should not be condoned.

Re:Very cool, but... (5, Informative)

tastiles (466054) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772825)

Actually, as a researcher in the field, controlling cost is one of the motivations behind this method.

Do you have any idea how much open brain surgery costs? It's several days in the hospital, plus a team of surgeons, plus an operating room. All in all, from $50,000 to $200,000. High intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) doesn't need any of that. There are hopes this could almost be an outpatient type of procedure.

One my childhood friends suffered from epilepsy for many years until as a teenager, he had exploratory brain surgery (in 1988) where they removed a cubic centimeter of diseased tissue. He was in the hospital for a week.

Not every new idea in medicine costs more money.

Re:Very cool, but... (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 5 years ago | (#28773145)

I didn't exactly find where they said the cost of this was but it is a Swiss study so they could be off a little compared to other countries.

However, you are coming to the wrong conclusions. You are only measuring income disparagement between having and not having the procedure and coming to an arbitrary conclusion. However, this is wrong on so many levels as I can show that a poor person making minimum wage according to your criteria would never be eligable for most major procedures where a high level exec or a millionair who inherited their money might more easily slide through. The differences between making minimum wage and the minimum plus $1-4 dollars or even minimum wage on a reduced workweek compared to a full work weak would have severe problems justifying the costly procedures where someone making 500k a year could earn 750k a year would justify the expenses more readily.

But when you look at the full aspects of human life, you have to consider what the person can't do because of the illness or injury. For instance, what kind of price tag would you put on having to open your home up to outside people to come in an clean it because you can't? What kind of price do you put on needing someone to help bath because you can't bend certain ways without knee bending agony? What kind of price can you place on not being able pick up or to hold your own kids or grandchildren. How about not being able to go outside and playing with them, not smelling their hair and giving them the love and nurturing that they deserve and humans families normally aspire to because of some limitation your disease or illness presents. How about having to give up hobbies and activities that you always found enjoyable or having to purchase hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment in order to still participate. You may think it doesn't matter now, but wait until you are afflicted with something and you are told to just suffer because you don't add enough value to society.

Realistically we need to start realizing that not every person DESERVES the best treatment, because the best treatment is so costly that society can never regain that investment. To think otherwise is to bankrupt ourselves.

The problem with your line of reasoning is that you assume or expect a gain but don't rationally look the realities. Costs of equipment is one reasons these procedures are so expensive but that works out to be less per patient if you treat more patients. So if you have the equiptment and treat 10 people, it may cost 100,000 per treatment but if you treat 100 people, that drops to 10,000 per treatment. If it's realistic to treat 5 patients a day 5 days a week, then that cost of equipment drops to just 3800 per patient. Now if you pay for a portion of that million dollar piece of equiptment with fund arrived from people who aren't being treated (profits from another division or charity or insurance or taxes) then it can be even lower. That 3800 could become16-1700 if the 91 million tax payers paid just .6 cents more per year in taxes. Now don't read that wrong, it isn't 60 cents, it is six tenths of one cent.

But, that doesn't even address why the prices of the machine is high to begin with. Or why the costs of the tech and doctor is so expensive. Get those trimmed down, and that 6/10ths of one cent could be less then one tenth of one cent. Anyways, the point is that if the machines exist, then the more they are used, the less it costs per treatment. Your withholding treatment because someone isn't worthy plan would only result in increased costs and less people qualifying.

Re:Very cool, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28773177)

That's right, let's stop all medical research. It'll only create costly treatment options that will drive a slashdotter to echo some pundit's canned tripe on a related topic. The bone saws of the 1800s were plenty for me.

Re:Very cool, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28773295)

This is why healthcare isn't a social issue, it's a personal one. My well being is unimaginably more important to me then it is to you. I should decide what my gain function is with regard to a procedure. If having my head cut open is high on my personal suck function then the higher cost of this procedure might out way it for me.

If you don't want to absorb the cost of these procedures in your insurance payment, then take a plan that doesn't include those procedures you don't think meet your standards of cost versus reward. Some people opt in to get the neat painless procedures, others opt out and get leaches.

Personal choice, isn't it grand?

No No No! (5, Interesting)

WeirdJohn (1170585) | more than 5 years ago | (#28773505)

As someone who lives with chronic pain, let me say you are so far off the mark.

I do respond to medication, but the only pain-killers that work are very heavy - Fentanyl.

I haven't had a full time job for many years. I never will without advances in the treatment of pain. If a procedure like this may mean I can work again, and pay taxes. Then I can afford expensive medical insurance.

More importantly, my kids then have a Dad who works full-time. They see that working leads to reward. They see that working hard at school can lead to a better life. At the moment my 16 y.o. sees no point in trying, as life can throw a curve ball and fuck you over. So if I could get something closer to a "normal" life, my kids will see me modelling better work-ethics and will be more likely to emulate my success. They see there's a point to trying to achieve their level of personal excellence, earn more money, pay more taxes and have more productive and potentially happier lives.

That's 6 people now pay more taxes.

Now I'm a maths teacher by vocation. If I was able to teach full-time I would be able to show several hundred kids a year that maths is easy, maths is fun, and that they can use it to solve real problems in everyday life. A few of these kids will go on to do amazing things, just because I can do what I am good at doing, and I can do it well. Over say 20 years there would be a significant number of people who have happier lives, earn more money and pay more taxes.

That's say 300 people now pay more taxes.

It's been shown in the literature that children of professionals are significantly more likely to undergo tertiary study and become professionals. So the children of the kids that were inspired to greatness by having a great teacher are more likely to have happier, more productive lives with higher paying jobs.

So there are potentially thousands of people who are paying more taxes, who are making great discoveries, and are generally happier, just because my pain is better managed without putting knives inside my head.

Look past the short-term benefits to the individual, and look at the potential returns to society and humanity as a whole, and the pay-off of a (admittedly) expensive procedure becomes enormous. And the return to the individual who suffers otherwise incurable chronic pain is not something measured in $$. To not wake up crying because I didn't die in my sleep would bloody marvellous. It's the possibility that there will be advances that help me that has kept me from suicide, and I'm not Robinson Crusoe.

Re:Very cool, but... (1)

Harlan879 (878542) | more than 5 years ago | (#28773747)

I don't think so. This treatment should be on the order of thousands of dollars, versus tens out thousands of dollars for brain surgery or repeated radiation treatments. Plus, there should be much, much fewer side effects. Also, many disorders of the type they're interested in treating with this technique affect young people whose lifetime incomes will dwarf the costs of successful treatments.

How would you like your brain, sir? (3, Funny)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 5 years ago | (#28771769)

130 F is right between rare and medium rare. I wonder what well done feels like.

Re:How would you like your brain, sir? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772245)

I'm sure it's more pleasant than having a metal probe supercoooled with liquid nitrogen held on my eyeball for five minutes, let alone needles stuck in my eyeball [slashdot.org] . "If I'd been strapped to a chair at Guantanimo when they did that I'd have confessed to anything."

If I had a brain cancer or a leaking blood vessel in my brain, I'd rather have this proceure done than have them saw my skull open, let alone die or become crippled.

Re:How would you like your brain, sir? (1)

Abreu (173023) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772483)

McGrew, that's the second time I read that journal entry

Thats the second time I have been freaked out of my friggin' mind

Please post a warning when you link to that story!

Re:How would you like your brain, sir? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772783)

Will do. You think you're freaked out reading it, how do you think I felt living it? I wouldn't wish a vitrectomy on my worst enemy, let alone the nitrogen probe.

Re:How would you like your brain, sir? (1)

Abreu (173023) | more than 5 years ago | (#28773355)

I mean, I got Lasik surgery done like 6 years ago (and I'm still wearing glasses, thanks for asking) and I was freaked out of my mind the whole time...

Reading about your experience makes me glad I didn't get anything more invasive

Re:How would you like your brain, sir? (1)

BlackSnake112 (912158) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772253)

"I do wish we could chat longer, but... I'm having an old friend for dinner. Bye. "

Hannibal would like this new tool.

Re:How would you like your brain, sir? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28773045)

Fortunately the brain itself has no pain receptors (unlike the skull). As someone living with a brain tumor (having experienced brain surgery) I am very excited about this.

Um (0, Redundant)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 5 years ago | (#28771791)

The groundbreaking finding here is that you can make lesions deep in the brain—through the intact skull and skin—with extreme precision and accuracy and safety.

Ah, the miracle of modern medicine.

Re:Um (1)

yincrash (854885) | more than 5 years ago | (#28771967)

now to see if the cia put it in gun form.

Awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28771857)

Like gamma knife without the radiation.
This should increase it's availability and reduce the expense of such procedures, especially on otherwise inoperable brain lesions (for which gamma knife may be suitable)

I don't know if it can be used near blood vessels, however, since blood has a way of carrying away heat

Re:Awesome (2, Informative)

jandoedel (1149947) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772025)

blood carries away heat, but not instantly.
if you can add the heat in 1/100 of a second, and it takes the blood a second to get rid of this heat...

Re:Awesome (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772947)

Indeed, there are thousands of tiny blood vessels in the retina, and lasers are used to weld torn retinas back together; I've undergone the procedure. I'd post another link to a journal entry about my vitrectomy (the retina finally detached) but a) I already did and it would be redundant and b) the link I posted freaked a guy out too much.

Other parts of the body. (4, Interesting)

Stu1706 (1392693) | more than 5 years ago | (#28771887)

Could this be used on other parts of the body for cancer and such? Since the brain does not feel pain, you would have to use some kind anesthetic on other parts of the body.

Re:Other parts of the body. (2, Insightful)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772181)

There's probably quite a bit of the body that has no pain receptors. You don't really need pain receptors on a lymph node, for example, so I would imagine there would be rather fewer of them.

I don't see why this couldn't be used elsewhere in the body, and I imagine as the technique improves, people will find all kinds of uses for it beyond killing cells. (For example, being able to selectively warm internal tissue might be quite valuable when treating hypothermia.)

RTFA (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28772405)

They already use it on some other tumors--I think some uterine tumors, for example. This version is for the brain and has some particular tricky problems associated with it, notably that the skull can absorb sound waves and its density varies--kind of like how when you build a nuke you need to focus the shock waves right, through solid materials of different densities.

(Only on Slashdot could you simplify something by comparing it to building a nuke)

Re:Other parts of the body. (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772875)

Possibly, but it might need to be made hotter. Neurons are one of the more sensitive cells in the body.

Re:Other parts of the body. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28773043)

In FACT, (no link or reference, look it up yourself) european researchers ARE using HIPO ultrasound to burn tumors, with modest success.
Not sure if it's beyond the experimental stage or a full-fledged and vetted treatment yet, but this does seem promising for "inoperable" tumors.
Compared with a gamma knife, ultrasound 'heat' seems a lot less involved and I would assume lead to far shorter recovery times / side effects.

Re:Other parts of the body. (1)

ianmkz (1533955) | more than 5 years ago | (#28773201)

I think I read somewhere that the technology is currently used to ablate uterine fibroids--small benign tumors in the uterus--and it's in clinical testing for removing tumors from breast and other cancers... Oh yes, TFA

Re:Other parts of the body. (2, Interesting)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 5 years ago | (#28773409)

My then-gf made an ultrasound transducer -- as in physically assembled, as well as partly designing -- that was about 11mm long by 2mm in diameter. It was designed to be inserted into a (conscious) person's femoral artery, and run up inside the heart, through the valve into the atrium or ventricle. It could simultaneously image the inside of the heart and use ultrasound to locally fry parts of the heart that were contributing to fibrillations. Apparently after a heart attack sometimes there are sections of the heart that are damaged or isolated, so they can still contract but they don't do it at the right time. (Heart cells are somewhere between muscle and nerve: they have porous cell membranes and exchange ions with neighboring cells, which is how the heart does smooth contractions: one spot starts and then all the adjacent cells contract and the wave moves across the whole heart. If some sections can't communicate correctly, they just start contracting spontaneously at the wrong time.)
Apparently it wasn't particularly painful to the people receiving the treatment. But with that said, I got a couple massive transfusions of chilled blood one time after a car crash and I can tell you for sure that you can feel the inside of your heart when ice water hits it. It is not a good feeling.

Re:Other parts of the body. (1)

Flailernator (1562431) | more than 5 years ago | (#28773771)

Yes, MR guided focused ultrasound is currently approved by the FDA in the US to treat uterine fibroids (which affect 20-30% of all women), and in clinical trials in the US to treat the pain caused by bone cancer (it's approved for use in Europe).

There's also several clinical trials for using the technology on treating prostate cancer, breast cancer, liver cancer, and many other forms of soft tissue tumors. There's also studies being done to use focused ultrasound to break up clots within the brain that can cause strokes.

Almost equally exciting, focused ultrasound can be used for targeted drug delivery. A desired pharmacological agent like a chemotherapy agent, antibiotics, or genes, can be encapsulated in a delivery medium (such as a lipid or a microbubble) and released into the blood stream. At the focal point of the ultrasound waves, the delivery medium can be 'burst', releasing the payload at ONLY that location which, again, is a target about the size of a grain of rice.

This can enable cancer treatments using chemotherapy agents that affect the tumor at just the location of the tumor, rather than effecting the entire body which can cause devastating side effects.

More information can be found at http://www.fusfoundation.org/ [fusfoundation.org]

Herpes (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28771921)

Herpes

How brain surgery is done these days. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28771933)

Actually I find the fact that we just go in there and destroy a relatively large part of the brain as the leading edge technology kind of amazing. The fact that it seems to work is even more amazing. But essentially this is a hammer, made to work on the opposite side of the wall. You still go in there and destroy whatever is there. Just weird to me that this is the cutting edge so far in brain surgery is all. Just goes to show how far we still have to go.

Re:How brain surgery is done these days. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28772611)

>> a relatively large part of the brain

You do realize, right, that ten cubic millimeters is not large? It's 2.15443469mm (yes, I used a calculator) on each side. Granted, most procedures will likely require more than one ... shot? ... with the device, but such a small amount leaves a lot left untouched.

Re:How brain surgery is done these days. (1)

theheadlessrabbit (1022587) | more than 5 years ago | (#28774081)

You do realize, right, that ten cubic millimeters is not large? It's 2.15443469mm (yes, I used a calculator) on each side. Granted, most procedures will likely require more than one ... shot? ... with the device, but such a small amount leaves a lot left untouched.

I don't understand how you arrived at that number.

when i did the math, my answer was that 10 cubic millimeters is 1 cubic centimeter.

Re:How brain surgery is done these days. (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#28773007)

Just weird to me that this is the cutting edge so far in brain surgery is all. Just goes to show how far we still have to go.

But that's not quite right.

This is not the cutting edge of brain surgery. This is better than the cutting edge, it's the burning acoustic probe of brain surgery.

I think it's pretty damn cool that we can operate on a brain without having to open up the skull or damage surrounding tissue to get at the target tissue.

And FWIW, there are plenty of other areas where brain surgery is advancing... if you want to revisit the 'cutting edge' metaphor, it's more like a cutting polyhedron. There are multiple edges, vertices, and faces, all of which are part of the advances. Our knowledge of brain physiology is one face, the toolset for surgery is another face (of which this would be an edge), etc.

Obvious.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28771945)

I don't know why, but this type of treatment seems obvious to me... Anyone else?

Maybe I've been watching too much scifi.....

Mama always told me... (2, Funny)

ralfg33k (646670) | more than 5 years ago | (#28771955)

that I needed to keep the volume down on my headphones and not blast that garbage into my head. I guess one day they'll look around in my skull and find tissue cooked into a rude shape.

ow, my aching hot spot... (3, Interesting)

FatRichie (1456467) | more than 5 years ago | (#28771975)

I'm curious to know how they control the heat disippation. In fact, there are probably other invasive procedures involving burning away tissue with lasers as well, where I wonder how they protect surrounding tissue from the heat. It seems that in the brain in particular, some tissue would be susceptible to damage by high temperatures, even if that temp doesn't actually burn anything away.

Any ideas, Dr. Slashdot?

Re:ow, my aching hot spot... (1)

amateur6 (1597289) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772553)

Yeah, I was thinking along these lines -- and a cubic centimeter isn't really what I'd call a "precision operation".

On the other hand, TFA says that it's more precise than radiation, so...

Re:ow, my aching hot spot... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28772659)

a cubic centimeter isn't really what I'd call a "precision operation".

10 cubic millimeters is only 1/100th of a cubic centimeter.

Re:ow, my aching hot spot... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28772827)

that isn't what i'd call precision operation either. good thing it's 10 cubic millimeters, not a cubic centimeter.

they must not teach the metric system where you're from

Re:ow, my aching hot spot... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28772963)

or rather, they must not teach unit analysis.

One cubic mm x (1 cm / 10 mm)^3 = (1/1000) cm^3
so 10 cubic mm = 0.01 cubic cm

for comparison, one millilitre of water is about 1cm^3

Re:ow, my aching hot spot... (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772725)

AFAICS the best you can do is make the pulse as short as possible ... with lasers and surface tissue you can use ablation to avoid heating the rest of the tissue, but that's not going to work internally.

Re:ow, my aching hot spot... (2, Funny)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772775)

how they control the heat disippation

Pierce the skin with a fork a few times before you apply the heat.

Re:ow, my aching hot spot... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#28773105)

See this comment [slashdot.org] , be careful following the link to the journal about lasers to the retina, supercooled metal probes to the white of the eye, and needles stuck in the eye, it's graphic and may cause nightmares (I promised someone I'd freaked out with that journal that I'd post a warning).

Re:ow, my aching hot spot... (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 5 years ago | (#28773285)

there used to be a similar procedure called a gama knife which was used on cancers in certain locations as non-evasive treatment. The bursts and focus is so small that there really isn't any heat dissipation to be concerned with.

This apparatus should work in a similar method in which they direct the energy in non-damaging doses from several angles and where the point of intersection happens, they can slightly increase the strength giving the desired action without threatening any other part of the body. I imagine with sound, they sync the waves to a certain pattern which would only be destructive if in proper alignment.

The article said the machines used 1000 transponders and it's likely that on their own and outside the focal point, they are completely harmless until it becomes focused. Think of it like shining 1000 lights onto the same spot, if they aren't focused, it will only be as bright as the brightest light (even though it would carry more energy and heat). Now focus all of the lights with a lenses like they do with multiple LEDs in a flashlight to create a much brighter light then would otherwise be seen.

Shades of Star Trek! (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772027)

McCoy and Crusher and Bashir never cut anybody open, they use... er, it looks like the technique from TFA. Communicators, flat screen computers, self-opening doors, etc. Now this.

Amazing. When do I get my matter replicator?

Tin foil doesn't work! (1)

nickovs (115935) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772031)

Darn, the tin foil in my hat won't work against this! I'm going to have to add some sound-absorbing cotton wool too in order to keep the CIA out of my head!

Killing the appetite??? (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772079)

Could this technique be used for people who are super morbidly obese to kill of the section of their brain than gives them an appetite? I mean they would still have to eat, but they would have to make eating a routine like brushing your teeth, etc...

Or would there be issues getting them to FIT into a MRI to do the procedure in the first place. I see a future where fatties are put into the MRI for 30 minutes until parts of their brains reach 130 degrees and they loose their appetites.

Of course me being a fattie, I wouldn't mind having a part of my brain scotched if it could kill off my ravenous appetite.

Re:Killing the appetite??? (2, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772207)

I think this would mean that you would have to carefully plan your meals -- times, portions, specific foods -- for the rest of your life. Or die of starvation and never even be aware of it.

It would work, sure, but it really strikes me as a case of the cure being worse than the disease. And if you are capable of putting that kind of care into your diet, you can probably lose weight without burning out a part of your brain.

Re:Killing the appetite??? (1)

AigariusDebian (721386) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772523)

Just make them monitor blood sugar levels after the procedure like the diabetics do. You only need to plan you meals with an accuracy of +- 30 days to not die anyway. Also, if you faint or are very weak, then it is probably wise to eat something. There is plenty of other signals to inform you of not eating enough well before death.

Re:Killing the appetite??? (2, Funny)

Vandilizer (201798) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772231)

Maybe, but unfortunately most morbidly obese people cannot fit into or be supported by the MRI machines that hospitals have. It is quite the reality check when these people have to be sent to the Zoo to make use of the same equipment they use for large animals.

Re:Killing the appetite??? (1)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 5 years ago | (#28773111)

Could this technique be used for people who are super morbidly obese to kill of the section of their brain than gives them an appetite?

I believe there are drugs that do the same thing chemically and non-destructively. I've met a few people who've used them to great effect. Granted, they have side effects, but wouldn't overwriting part of your brain with NOPs also have some side effects?

Re:Killing the appetite??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28773767)

I wouldn't mind having a part of my brain scotched

Ah yes, what a good scotch won't do...

I went in for this treatment (5, Funny)

2names (531755) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772081)

and now my ice cream thinks trees are precisely why shoe laces bark the 1812 overture spatula rice mommy.

Re:I went in for this treatment (1)

Alien Being (18488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772617)

They used you as a scratch monkey!

Re:I went in for this treatment (3, Funny)

igloonaut (1376833) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772673)

and now my ice cream thinks trees are precisely why shoe laces bark the 1812 overture spatula rice mommy.

Now you'll be able to write "The Family Guy" episodes with the best of them.

Re:I went in for this treatment (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 5 years ago | (#28773717)

and now my ice cream thinks trees are precisely why shoe laces bark the 1812 overture spatula rice mommy.

Now you'll be able to write "The Family Guy" episodes with the best of them.

Well, at least it's better than the time that...

Re:I went in for this treatment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28773093)

Dear Aunt, let's set so double the killer delete select all.

noises in my head (1)

SoupGuru (723634) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772151)

Now they won't laugh anymore when I tell them I have noises in my head

Grreeeaattt... (1)

drewsup (990717) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772255)

OMG! They have found a way to focus my wife's voice into a concentrated stream OHH Noes!

130 Fahrenheit... (0, Offtopic)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772261)

... is about 54 degrees Celsius, by the way.

C'mon, America. Catch up with the world's weights and measures. ;-D

Re:130 Fahrenheit... (1)

tholomyes (610627) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772525)

But in America, bigger is better, and 130 is clearly bigger than 54...

Re:130 Fahrenheit... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28772675)

It's not our fault that you have no respect for history! Why, every American learns the maximum temperature in Farenheit's lab by heart. Even the ones who can't spell know what 100 degrees are!

See, we have a secret plan to memorize all trivia by using weird units.

Re:130 Fahrenheit... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#28773173)

C'mon, America. Catch up with the world's weights and measures. ;-D

Well, we may be behind in measures, but our fatasses have your weights beat by a mile!

Safety? (1)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772267)

'The groundbreaking finding here is that you can make lesions deep in the brain â" through the intact skull and skin â" with extreme precision and accuracy and safety.'

Something about the word "lesions" doesn't quite make me think "safety". Reminds me of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where Jim Carey's character asks if there is any risk of brain damage and the guy tells him that "technically, it is brain damage".

Re:Safety? (4, Interesting)

sjames (1099) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772967)

Currently, all brain surgery consists of excising something, implanting something, or making a lesion in something. We do not have the ability to make a repair on anything in the brain. The best we can do is find the part that is malfunctioning and kill it off so it at least won't interfere with the rest.

What this does is avoid the whole drilling holes in the skull part and the infection risk that goes with it.

Re:Safety? (1)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 5 years ago | (#28773181)

Yes, I know. Thank you.

sMh1t (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28772317)

in the sun.= In the need to scream that Kreskin Are you a NIGGER save Linux from a community at

Lobotomies (1)

rouge86 (608370) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772635)

Want to avoid messy lobotomies and skull saws?

Not everyone that has brain surgery needs half of their brain removed. Lobectomies remove smaller portions of the brain. The portion of the skull that was opened is resealed using wire and the original skull piece.

Epilepsy (3, Interesting)

notarockstar1979 (1521239) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772747)

Would be nice if they could use this to destroy the two pinpoint spots of brain damage my girlfriend has that cause her epilepsy. She's afraid of surgery (doesn't want her skull opened up, and who can really blame her?) but she would be one to try something like this in a heartbeat.

Re:Epilepsy (3, Insightful)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 5 years ago | (#28773081)

Neurosurgery (along with other kinds of brain damage) frightens me like few other phenomena. It's a little bit like saying: "okay, this piece of code in the kernel is crashing. Let's overwrite it with NOPs and see what happens." What if you need that part of your brain? Are you really the same person after the procedure?

Re:Epilepsy (1)

VeNoM0619 (1058216) | more than 5 years ago | (#28773721)

Perhaps you could followup with those who are undergoing the procedure? Besides, if you change: will you know and care?

Re:Epilepsy (1)

notarockstar1979 (1521239) | more than 5 years ago | (#28773737)

That is one of the best ways I've ever heard it explained. I wish I had mod points.

Abuse (2, Interesting)

Rowanyote (980640) | more than 5 years ago | (#28772951)

What springs to mind first is the terrible potential to abuse this technology on political prisoners, criminals, etc.

Depending on how well you pinpoint certain areas of the brain, but I wonder if you can permanently destroy a person's effectiveness at whatever skills the government doesn't want them pursuing. It sounds like this procedure doesn't leave any external evidence, and the internal lesion may not be readily identifiable without biopsy.

"We will release you to your family immediately, but only if you consent to this minor procedure...."

Sound wave lobotomies (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28772953)

Wasn't this in an episode of The Prisoner? That show was way before its time.

Already in use (2, Funny)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 5 years ago | (#28773133)

I'm pretty sure this technique is already in daily use. From what I can tell, it involves rap, subwoofers, and the patient driving by my house at 11:30 p.m.

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