Stereotactic surgery at Auburn’s teaching hospital offers veterinarians precision in treating brain diseases

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The Bailey Small Animal Teaching Hospital at Auburn University's College of Veterinary Medicine is one of the few teaching hospitals in the country to offer stereotactic surgery to treat animals with brain disease.

Stereotactic is a surgical technique that utilizes three-dimensional imaging to provide a precise model of an animal's brain. Veterinarians at Auburn create an image of the animal brain, with either magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized axial tomography (CAT scan) and transfer it to Brainsight, a computer program which generates a three-dimensional model of the image.

Auburn clinicians have used the technique to image other areas of an animal, such as the spine, behind the eyes and the nose.

Using landmarks, or particular points of the patient's affected anatomy as reference, clinicians in the hospital's Neurology and Neurosurgery Service like Assistant Professor Dr. Amanda Taylor can "paint" the particular areas they are targeting for surgery. With the digital imaging and a hand-held pointer, clinicians can see precisely where they need to make an incision to remove a tumor or address another issue in the brain or elsewhere in the body.

Taylor said the technology is indispensable for hospital faculty because it allows them to achieve a level of precision that previously wasn't possible.

"Previously with brain surgery, if the lesion or brain disease was small, we wouldn't have been able to access it without interfering with the rest of the brain," she explained. "With this system, I can pinpoint something as small as two millimeters and go straight at it."

The thickness of a nickel is nearly two millimeters.

Offering surgeons the ability to operate at such a level of accuracy ensures that healthy tissue is preserved while treating the patient.

"One of the things that make the software we use unique is that it was designed with veterinary patients in mind," Taylor said. "Similar systems on the market are designed for human patients, and have to be adapted, but this is made for us right out of the box."

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