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The Nd:YAG laser in neurosurgery

Part 1. Laboratory investigations: dose-related biological response of neural tissue

Robert E. Wharen Jr., Robert E. Anderson, Bernd Scheithauer and Thoralf M. Sundt Jr.

✓ The biological response of normal cat brain to Nd:YAG laser light was studied both in vitro and in vivo to evaluate the potential safety of this laser for coagulation in brain tissue. Transmission studies revealed a blood:brain absorption ratio of 100:1 indicating the selective absorption of Nd:YAG light by hemoglobin and enabling Nd:YAG light to selectively heat blood vessels compared to brain tissue. In vivo temperature recordings and pathological evaluation demonstrated a remarkable ability of the brain to dissipate the thermal energy produced by Nd:YAG light with only a small amount of structural damage. Powers of 10 W applied for 8 seconds using a 1.2-mm focused probe resulted in a penetration depth in normal brain of only 2 mm. Thermal recordings also revealed that blood is heated to 90% of its maximum temperature within 3 seconds, while the brain temperature increases linearly as the duration of the laser pulse is increased. In addition, the localized heating of brain tissue was cooled rapidly within seconds following cessation of the laser pulse. These findings indicate that by using short, intermittent pulses of light focused upon blood vessels, damage to the surrounding tissue can be minimized, and the Nd:YAG laser can be used safely as an adjunctive measure for hemostasis in many neurosurgical procedures.

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The Nd:YAG laser in neurosurgery

Part 2. Clinical studies: an adjunctive measure for hemostasis in resection of arteriovenous malformations

Robert E. Wharen Jr., Robert E. Anderson and Thoralf M. Sundt Jr.

✓ The Nd:YAG laser has been used safely to aid in the resection of 10 cases of parenchymal arteriovenous malformations (AVM's). The laser was, found helpful for: 1) defining the plane between the AVM and the brain; 2) coagulating any dural component of the AVM; and 3) achieving hemostasis of the bed following resection of the lesion. However, its overall benefit in the resection of AVM's remains to be determined, as it could not arrest active high-flow bleeding from the thin-walled vessels feeding the deep portion of the AVM. This was attributed to the inherent characteristics of these vessels, since the instrument has been effective in non-AVM arteries of similar dimensions containing contractile elements in the vessel walls. Future refinements in focusing instrumentation and operative technique should enhance its capabilities and usefulness. When used within the recommended power range, the Nd:YAG laser is safe and its penetration predictable. The fiberoptic cable light delivery system allows excellent mobility of the handpiece, but the protective eyewear laser-light filters reduce the available light to the surgeon. The instrument appears promising but more work is required.

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Edward R. Laws Jr., Patrick J. Kelly and Thoralf M. Sundt Jr.

✓ A method is described for the protection of the trigeminal root from recurrent vascular irritation or compression after posterior fossa microvascular decompression. A vascular clip-graft, using a Sundt clip of suitable size, is applied to the sensory root of the trigeminal nerve. The technique has proven safe and effective in a series of nine patients followed for up to 28 months.

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David G. Piepgras, Michael K. Morgan, Thoralf M. Sundt Jr., Takehiko Yanagihara and Lynn M. Mussman

✓ A series of 14 patients with intracerebral hemorrhage after carotid endarterectomy is reviewed. This complication occurred in 0.6% of 2362 consecutive carotid endarterectomies performed at the Mayo Clinic from 1972 through 1986. All hemorrhages occurred within the first 2 weeks after operation and were ipsilateral to the side of the operation. Eight patients died, and only two made a good recovery. Significant risk factors are hypertension and chronic hemispheric hypoperfusion with impaired autoregulation. The “normal pressure-hyperperfusion breakthrough” syndrome was considered to be operative in 12 of the 14 patients. Nine patients had documented hyperperfusion (at least 100% increase of baseline cerebral blood flow) at the time of surgery. In an additional three patients, normal perfusion-pressure breakthrough was inferred by the clinical course and radiological findings, as well as by the absence of alternative explanations. Patients at risk for postendarterectomy intracerebral hemorrhage include those who have a clinical history suggestive of hemodynamic cerebral ischemia, severe carotid stenosis with limited hemispheric collateral flow, and postendarterectomy hyperperfusion, as measured by intraoperative cerebral blood flow. To minimize the risk of hemorrhage in these patients, strict maintenance of blood pressure at normotensive or even relatively hypotensive levels during the intraoperative and early postoperative periods is advised.

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Phyo Kim, Robert R. Lorenz, Thoralf M. Sundt Jr. and Paul M. Vanhoutte

✓ The purpose of this study was to determine the cause of the loss of endothelium-dependent relaxation observed in chronic cerebral vasospasm. A bioassay system was developed to measure the release of endothelium-derived relaxing factor (EDRF) from canine basilar arteries. Subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) was induced in dogs by two injections of autologous blood into the cisterna magna. Angiograms were performed on the 7th day after SAH to check the presence of chronic vasospasm. The animals were sacrificed on the 8th day, and in vitro experiments were performed on rings harvested from the basilar artery. These confirmed loss of endothelium-dependent relaxation in response to bradykinin and arginine vasopressin in the group with SAH. The basilar arteries were perfused with modified Krebs-Ringer solution. The perfusate was bioassayed with a ring of coronary artery without endothelium (bioassay ring). The release of the EDRF was detected by relaxation of the bioassay ring contracted with prostaglandin F2α. Arginine vasopressin and bradykinin added to the perfusate upstream of the basilar artery caused concentration-dependent release of the EDRF. The direct effect of these peptides on the smooth muscle of the bioassay ring was to cause contraction. The release of the EDRF was identical in basilar arteries from the control and the SAH groups. These results indicate that the release of the EDRF is not impaired during chronic vasospasm, and thus that the loss of the endothelium-dependent relaxation is due to a decreased transfer of the EDRF or a reduced responsiveness of the smooth muscle to the factor.

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John L. D. Atkinson, Thoralf M. Sundt Jr., O. Wayne Houser and Jack P. Whisnant

✓ A retrospective angiographic analysis was designed to extrapolate the frequency of angiographically defined asymptomatic intracranial aneurysms in the anterior circulation from a relatively unbiased clinical series. A total of 9295 angiograms were reviewed from January, 1980, to January, 1987, and, based on these, 278 patients with minimal bias for the presence of an aneurysm were selected. Three patients were found to have incidental aneurysms; thus, the angiographic frequency of patients with asymptomatic aneurysms in this series was 1%. This patient population is skewed toward the older age groups and probably over-represents the incidence of these aneurysms in the population at large. Comparing current subarachnoid hemorrhage statistics and the low frequency of asymptomatic aneurysms suggests that a larger percentage of these aneurysms than was previously thought subsequently rupture. This study contrasts sharply with previous reports quoting a high incidence of aneurysms, and significantly alters the concept and treatment of this disease.

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Thoralf M. Sundt Jr., David G. Piepgras, W. Richard Marsh and Nicolee C. Fode

✓ The authors report their experience with the use of saphenous vein bypass grafts for treating advanced occlusive disease in the posterior circulation (77 patients, all of whom had failed medical management and showed severe ischemic symptoms), deteriorating patients with giant aneurysms of the posterior circulation (nine patients), progressive ischemia in the anterior circulation (26 patients, none of whom had a normal examination), and giant aneurysms in the anterior circulation (20 patients, all of whom presented with mass effect or subarachnoid hemorrhage). Graft patency in the first 65 cases treated was 74%. However, after significant technical changes of vein-graft preparation and construction of the proximal anastomosis, patency in the following 67 cases was 94%. Excellent or good results (including relief of deficits existing prior to surgery) were achieved in 71% of patients with advanced occlusive disease in the posterior circulation, 44% of those with giant aneurysms of the posterior circulation, 58% of those with ischemia of the anterior circulation, and 80% of those with giant aneurysms of the anterior circulation. Mean graft blood flow at surgery in the series was 100 ml/min for posterior circulation grafts and 110 ml/min for anterior circulation grafts. Experience to date indicates that this is a useful operation, and is particularly applicable to patients who are neurologically unstable from advanced intracranial occlusive disease in the posterior circulation or with giant aneurysms in the anterior circulation. The risk of hyperperfusion breakthrough with intracerebral hematoma restricts the technique in patients with progressing ischemic symptoms in the anterior circulation, and the intolerance of patients with fusiform aneurysms in the posterior circulation to the iatrogenic vertebrobasilar occlusion limits the applicability of this approach to otherwise inoperable lesions in that system.

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Treatment of experimental focal cerebral ischemia with mannitol

Assessment by intracellular brain pH, cortical blood flow, and electroencephalography

Fredric B. Meyer, Robert E. Anderson, Thoralf M. Sundt Jr. and Tony L. Yaksh

✓ Intracellular brain pH, cortical blood flow (CBF), and electrocorticograms were recorded in regions of severe and moderate ischemia in 10 control rabbits and 10 rabbits given mannitol, 1 gm/kg, after occlusion of a major branch of the middle cerebral artery. Pooling the data from all 20 animals, preocclusion CBF was 46.4 ±3.6 ml/100 gm/min and intracellular brain pH was 7.01 ± 0.04 (means ± standard error of the means). Although mannitol administration mildly improved CBF in regions of severe ischemia, this increase was not sufficient to prevent metabolic deterioration as assessed by brain pH. However, in regions of moderate ischemia, CBF improved significantly with mannitol and the gradual decline in brain pH observed in control animals was prevented. For example, in the treated moderate ischemia sites 4-hour postocclusion CBF and pH values were 31.8 ml/100 gm/min and 6.89 ± 0.09, respectively, as compared to control values of 14.3 ml/ 100 gm/min and 6.75 ± 0.06. These results suggest that mannitol may be of benefit in stabilizing regions of moderate, but not severe, ischemia after vessel occlusion.

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David O. Wiebers, Jack P. Whisnant, Thoralf M. Sundt Jr. and W. Michael O'Fallon

✓ The authors report the results of a long-term follow-up study of 130 patients with 161 unruptured intracranial saccular aneurysms. Their findings suggest that unruptured saccular aneurysms less than 10 mm in diameter have a very low probability of subsequent rupture; The mean diameter of the aneurysms that subsequently ruptured was 21.3 mm, compared with a diameter of 7.5 mm for aneurysms defined after rupture at the same institution. Part of the explanation for this discrepancy may be that the size of the filling compartment of the aneurysm decreases after rupture. There is also evidence from the present study that intracranial saccular aneurysms develop with increasing age of the patient and stabilize over a relatively short period, if they do not initially rupture, and that the likelihood of subsequent rupture decreases considerably if the initial stabilized size is less than 10 mm in diameter. Consequently, the critical size for aneurysm rupture is likely to be smaller if rupture occurs at the time of or soon after aneurysm formation. There seems to be a substantial difference in potential for growth and rupture between previously ruptured and unruptured aneurysms.