Real-time, MRI-guided laser interstitial thermal therapy (MRgLITT) has been reported as a safe and effective technique for the treatment of epileptogenic foci in children and adults. After the recent approval of MRgLITT by the European Medicines Agency in April 2018, the authors began to use it for the treatment of hypothalamic hamartomas (HHs) in pediatric patients with the assistance of a robotic arm. In this study, the authors report their initial experience describing the surgical technique, accuracy of the robotic arm, safety, and efficacy.
The laser fiber was placed with the assistance of the stereotactic robotic arm. The accuracy of the robotic arm for this procedure was calculated by comparing the intraoperative MRI to the preoperative plan. Common demographic and seizure characteristics of the patients, laser ablation details, complications, and short-term seizure outcomes were prospectively collected.
Sixteen procedures (11 first ablations and 5 reablations) were performed in 11 patients between 15 months and 17 years of age (mean age 6.4 years) with drug-resistant epilepsy related to HHs. The mean target point localization error was 1.69 mm. No laser fiber needed to be repositioned. The mean laser power used per procedure was 4.29 W. The trajectory of the laser fiber was accidentally ablated in 2 patients, provoking transient hemiparesis in one of these patients. One patient experienced postoperative somnolence and syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion, and 2 patients had transient oculomotor (cranial nerve III) palsy. Fifty-four percent of the patients were seizure free after the first ablation (mean follow-up 22 months, range 15–33 months). All 5 patients who experienced an epilepsy relapse underwent a second treatment, and 4 remain seizure free at least 5 months after reablation.
In the authors’ experience, the robotic arm was sufficiently accurate for laser fiber insertion, even in very young patients. MRgLITT appears to be an effective treatment for selected cases of HH. MRgLITT for HH is a minimally invasive procedure with appealing safety features, as it allows delivery of energy precisely under real-time MRI control. Nonetheless, complications may occur, especially in voluminous HHs. The amount of delivered energy and the catheter cooling system must be closely monitored during the procedure. A larger sample size and longer follow-up duration are needed to judge the efficacy and safety of MRgLITT for HH more rigorously. This initial experience was very promising.