NEWS | August 28, 2020

UC Davis surgeon uses lasers to treat brain tumors and ease the stress of surgery

First patient was treated and sent home in one weekend


A UC Davis Health neurosurgeon is the first in the region to dissolve a patient’s brain tumor using advanced, minimally invasive laser technology rather than cutting it out with a scalpel. The patient did well following his procedure on Saturday and went home on Sunday. 

Neurosurgeon Orin Bloch is the first in the region to treat brain tumors using laser technology known as NeuroBlate. Neurosurgeon Orin Bloch is the first in the region to treat brain tumors using laser technology known as NeuroBlate.

The technology — called NeuroBlate — is part of a growing movement to find safe and effective alternatives to open-skull surgery for patients with benign or malignant tumors. This procedure involves using laser energy to target precise parts of the brain with heat. It dramatically cuts procedure length, recovery time and pain. It also can be used to treat parts of the brain that surgeons can’t reach with traditional surgery. 

“My work typically involves significant operations that require removing large sections of the skull and brain, resulting in extensive recovery and rehabilitation,” said neurological surgeon and tumor specialist Orin Bloch. He brought NeuroBlate to UC Davis after using it successfully at his previous institution. 

“We want to improve patient safety and shorten recovery with new technology and help patients get back to their normal lives faster,” Bloch said. 

NeuroBlate surgeries involve two steps. First, Bloch makes an incision about the width of a pencil in the scalp and passes a thin laser probe through the small opening in the skull. Then, the remainder of the procedure is performed using real-time magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to guide precise delivery of high levels of heat to disintegrate the tumor. The whole process takes around three hours. Afterwards, patients only spend a night or two in the hospital, typically without needing to be in an intensive care unit. 

Bloch anticipates the technology will be most useful for patients with small or recurrent tumors that haven’t invaded large areas of brain tissue — or about 20% of his patients. The system also will be used at UC Davis Health to treat epilepsy in adults and children. 

“After years of having just one surgical approach to treating brain tumors, it’s great to be able to offer an alternative for some patients,” Bloch said. 

For more information about NeuroBlate in the Sacramento region, patients and referring physicians can contact the UC Davis Health Brain Tumor Program at 916-731-1098.