Surgery for Brain Tumors

The neurosurgeons at UCSF who treat tumors of the brain and spinal cord specialize in treating particular types of tumors, assuring patients of a surgeon highly experienced in treating their particular condition. The neurosurgeons who take care of children with brain and spinal cord tumors have had fellowship training in pediatric neurosurgery and pediatric neuro-oncology.

During surgery to remove brain tumors, UCSF neurosurgeons use brain-mapping techniques to identify and avoid injury to sites of language, motor, and sensory function during surgery. Dr. Mitchel Berger, Director of the Brain Tumor Center, is a pioneer of these techniques. Brain mapping permits the surgeon to remove tumor and focal points of epileptic activity from the brain to the maximum extent possible, while minimizing ill effects from surgery. We also use the most advanced surgical navigation systems, which permit confirmation of tumor location under the scalp and bone during incision planning and under the brain surface during the operation. These image guided systems are used throughout the surgery to assist the surgeon in achieving excision of as much tumor as possible. Currently we have the capability to obtain computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans directly during surgery. These imaging techniques let the surgeon see precisely the size and shape of the tumor and where the tumor is located at every moment during surgery.

The program is also internationally regarded for the expertise in surgery for pituitary and skull base tumors. The microsurgical transsphenoidal surgery techniques for pituitary adenomas were developed and refined at UCSF. Patients undergoing surgery for pituitary tumors are treated in a program of highly specialized care at the California Center for Pituitary Disorders at UCSF. The skull base surgery program is composed of neurosurgeons specializing in removal of tumors involving the highly delicate skull base anatomy, with particular skill in surgery for meningiomas and acoustic neuromas. Certain small- to medium-sized brain tumors (and some cases of epilepsy) can be treated with Gamma Knife® or CyberKnife radiosurgery. This is a noninvasive procedure for delivering radiation to the tumor. At UCSF, radiosurgery is multidisciplinary program involving adult and pediatric neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, radiologists, biophysicists, nurses, and radiation technologists. For patients with a tumor that can be treated with radiosurgery, the procedure entails very little discomfort and only a short time to recuperate.