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2017 Epilepsy News Article Lead ImageThe UAB Department of Neurosurgery Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery made history on Valentine’s Day 2017 when 19-year-old Robin Struble became the first patient at Children’s of Alabama to undergo thermal laser ablation surgery as an epilepsy treatment.

Trademarked as Visualase, this groundbreaking procedure is vaunted as a less invasive alternative to a craniotomy with a faster recovery period. 

To perform Visualase, a flexible laser fiber is inserted through a small scalp incision and tiny hole in the skull, measuring precisely 3.2 millimeters, or about the width of a coffee stirrer. The laser then heats and eliminates the abnormal brain tissue, keeping the surrounding healthy tissue intact. The procedure is monitored in real time using magnetic resonance imaging, which ensures accurate and safe treatment targeting, and thermal maps display the extent of tissue destruction. After the laser is removed, the incision is closed using minimal sutures, usually just one stitch. 

Patients who are unable to manage their epilepsy effectively with medication, or those who have MRI-visible lesions confirmed as the cause of their epilepsy, are eligible for Visualase treatment. 

Before operating using Visualase, Jeffrey Blount, M.D., MPH, and Curtis Rozzelle, M.D., both completed FDA-approved specialized training to perform the therapy and worked closely with the COA imaging department to integrate the new system. 

“[Visualase] put us on the cutting edge in offering the latest treatment options and modalities in neurosurgery,” said Rozzelle. “It gives us another tool for epilepsy patients.”