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Cole A. Giller, Maureen Johns and Hanli Liu

✓ Localization of targets during stereotactic surgery is frequently accomplished by identification of the boundaries between the gray matter of various nuclei and the surrounding white matter. The authors describe an intracranial probe developed for this purpose, which uses near-infrared (NIR) light.

The probe fits through standard stereotactic holders and emits light at its tip. The scattered light is detected and analyzed by a spectrometer, with the slope of the trailing portion of the reflectance curve used as the measurement value.

Near-infrared readings were obtained during 27 neurosurgical procedures. The first three operations were temporal lobectomies, with values obtained from tracks in the resected specimen and resection bed. In the next five procedures, the probe was inserted stereotactically to a depth of 1 to 2 cm with measurements obtained every 1 mm. The probe was then used in 19 stereotactic procedures for movement disorders, obtaining measurements every 0.5 to 1 mm to target depths of 6 to 8 cm to interrogate subcortical structures. The NIR signals were correlated to distances beneath the cortical surface measured on postoperative computerized tomography or magnetic resonance imaging by using angle correction and three-dimensional reconstruction techniques.

The NIR values for white and gray matter obtained during the lobectomies were significantly different (white matter 2.5 ± 0.37, gray matter 0.82 ± 0.23 mean ± standard deviation). The NIR values from the superficial stereotactic tracks showed initial low values corresponding to cortical gray matter and high values corresponding to subcortical white matter.

There was good correlation between the NIR signals and postoperative imaging in the 19 stereotactic cases. Dips due to adjacent sulci, a plateau of high signal due to subcortical white matter, a dip in the NIR signal during passage through the ventricle, dips due to the caudate nucleus, and peaks due to the white matter capsule between ventricle and thalamus were constant features. The putamen—capsule boundary and the lamina externa and interna of the globus pallidus could be distinguished in three cases. Elevated signals corresponding to the thalamic floor were seen in 10 cases. Nuances such as prior lesions and nonspecific white matter changes were also detected. There was no incidence of morbidity associated with use of the probe. Data acquisition was straightforward and the equipment required for the studies was inexpensive.

The NIR probe described in this article seems to be able to detect gray—white matter boundaries around and within subcortical structures commonly encountered in stereotactic functional neurosurgery. This simple, inexpensive method deserves further study to establish its efficacy for stereotactic localization.

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Cole A. Giller, Hanli Liu, Prem Gurnani, Sundar Victor, Umar Yazdani and Dwight C. German

Object. The authors have developed an intracranial near-infrared (NIR) probe that analyzes the scattering of light emitted from its tip to measure the optical properties of cerebral tissue. Despite its success in distinguishing gray matter from white matter in humans during stereotactic surgery, the limits of this instrument's resolution remain unclear. In this study, the authors determined the spatial resolution of this new probe by using a rodent model supplemented with phantom measurements and computer simulation.

Methods. A phantom consisting of Intralipid and gelatin was constructed to resemble a layer of white matter overlying a layer of gray matter. Near-infrared measurements were obtained as the probe was inserted through the gray—white matter transition. A computer simulation of NIR measurements through a gray—white matter transition was also performed using Monte Carlo techniques. The NIR probe was then used to study 19 tracks from the cortical surface through the corpus callosum in an in vivo rodent preparation. The animals were killed and histological sections through the tracks were obtained.

Data from the phantom models and computer simulations showed that the NIR probe samples a volume of tissue extending 1 to 1.5 mm in front of the probe tip (this distance is termed the “lookthrough” distance). Measurements obtained from an NIR probe passing through a thin layer of white matter consisted of an initial segment of increasing values, a maximum (peak) value, and a trailing segment of decreasing values. The length of the initial segment is the lookthrough distance, the position of the peak indicates the location of the superficial white matter boundary, and the length of the trailing segment is the thickness of the layer.

These considerations were confirmed in experiments with rodents. All tracks passed through the corpus callosum, which was demonstrated as a broad peak on each NIR graph. The position of the dorsal boundary of the corpus callosum and its width (based on histological measurements) correlated well with the peak of the NIR curve and its trailing segment, respectively. The initial segments correlated well with estimates of the lookthrough distance. Five of the tracks transected the smaller anterior commissure (diameter 0.2 mm), producing a narrow NIR peak at the correct depth.

Conclusions. Data in this study confirm that the NIR probe can reliably detect and measure the thickness of layers of white matter as thin as 0.2 mm. Such resolution should be adequate to detect larger structures of interest encountered during stereotactic surgery in humans.

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Cole A. Giller, Hanli Liu, Dwight C. German, Dheerendra Kashyap and Richard B. Dewey Jr


The authors previously developed an optical stereotactic probe employing near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy to provide intraoperative localization by distinguishing gray matter from white matter. In the current study they extend and further validate this technology.


Near-infrared probes were inserted 203 times during 138 procedures for movement disorders. Detailed validation with postoperative imaging was obtained for 121 of these procedures and with microelectrode recording (MER) for 30 procedures. Probes were constructed to interrogate tissue perpendicular to the probe path and to incorporate hollow channels for microelectrodes, deep brain stimulation (DBS) electrodes, and other payloads.


The NIR data were highly correlated to imaging and MER recordings for thalamic targets. The NIR data were highly sensitive but less specific relative to imaging for subthalamic targets, confirming the ability to detect the subthalamic nucleus and to provide warnings of inaccurate localization. The difference between the NIR- and MER-detected midpoints of the subthalamic nucleus along the chosen tracks was 1.1 ± 1.2 mm (SD). Data obtained during insertion and withdrawal of the NIR probe suggested that DBS electrodes may push their targets ahead of their paths. There was one symptomatic morbidity. Detailed NIR data could be obtained from a 7-cm track in less than 10 minutes.


The NIR probe is a straightforward, quick, and robust tool for intraoperative localization during functional neurosurgery. Potential future applications include localization of targets for epilepsy and psychiatric disorders, and incorporation of NIR guidance into probes designed to convey various payloads.