In appropriate candidates, the treatment of medication-refractory mesial temporal lobe epilepsy (MTLE) is primarily surgical. Traditional anterior temporal lobectomy yields seizure-free rates of 60%–70% and possibly higher. The field of magnetic resonance–guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) is an evolving field in neurosurgery. There is potential to treat MTLE with MRgFUS; however, it has appeared that the temporal lobe structures were beyond the existing treatment envelope of currently available clinical systems. The purpose of this study was to determine whether lesional temperatures can be achieved in the target tissue and to assess potential safety concerns.
Cadaveric skulls with tissue-mimicking gels were used as phantom targets. An ablative volume was then mapped out for a “virtual temporal lobectomy.” These data were then used to create a target volume on the InSightec ExAblate Neuro system. The target was the amygdala, uncus, anterior 20 mm of hippocampus, and adjacent parahippocampal gyrus. This volume was approximately 5cm3. Thermocouples were placed on critical skull base structures to monitor skull base heating.
Adequate focusing of the ultrasound energy was possible in the temporal lobe structures. Using clinically relevant ultrasound parameters (power 900 W, duration 10 sec, frequency 650 kHz), ablative temperatures were not achieved (maximum temperature 46.1°C). Increasing sonication duration to 30 sec demonstrated lesional temperatures in the mesial temporal lobe structures of interest (up to 60.5°C). Heating of the skull base of up to 24.7°C occurred with 30-sec sonications.
MRgFUS thermal ablation of the mesial temporal lobe structures relevant in temporal lobe epilepsy is feasible in a laboratory model. Longer sonications were required to achieve temperatures that would create permanent lesions in brain tissue. Heating of the skull base occurred with longer sonications. Blocking algorithms would be required to restrict ultrasound beams causing skull base heating. In the future, MRgFUS may present a minimally invasive, non-ionizing treatment of MTLE.