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New microscope builds capability of surgeries at HSHS St. Elizabeth’s

p13 neurosurgeonsBy ALAN ORTBALS
    HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in O’Fallon recently acquired a Leica OHX surgical microscope — commonly referred to as a blue light microscope — to improve its capabilities in brain and spinal surgeries.
    This is a game changer, St. Elizabeth’s executive director of surgical services Sue Holloway says, because, when teamed with the FL400 filter, it uses fluorescent light to differentiate between malignant and healthy tissue.
    The goal in brain surgery, of course, is to remove every bit of malignancy without taking healthy tissue in the process. It can be hard, however, to tell healthy and malignant apart even with a standard surgical microscope. The Leica makes that task much easier.
    “With the Leica microscope and FL400 filter, the normal tissue appears blue and the tumor tissue appears pink,” Holloway said. “So, this new microscope makes it so much better to resect these tumors without damaging any adjacent normal tissue.”
    Standard procedure after these surgeries, Holloway said, is to take an MRI to see if all of the tumorous growth was successfully removed. If not, the skull must be opened to get what was missed. While the follow up MRI will still be performed, this new technology will make it much less likely that a second operation will be necessary, according to Holloway.
    Such technology is expensive and when one of the hospital’s neurosurgeons came to Holloway last year to seek the acquisition of the new microscope, she turned to the HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Foundation for funding. The Foundation’s board was quickly convinced of the importance of the Leica and the benefits it would provide to St. Elizabeth’s patients and agreed to the purchase. In fact, the Foundation, which conducts capital campaigns and receives donations from numerous individuals and businesses, has granted about $700,000 to various departments for equipment purchases this year alone.
    The Leica is not just useful for brain surgery but for spinal surgeries as well. St. Elizabeth’s neurosurgeons will train on the new equipment and will go to New York to participate in Leica-aided surgeries before returning to O’Fallon to implement them here. Holloway said she expected the blue light-aided surgery to begin at St. Elizabeth’s later this summer.
    “We do quite a bit of neurosurgery here, but I don’t think many people know that it is one of our more robust practices,” Holloway said. “Many patients don’t want to have to go over to St. Louis to have these complicated medical procedures. Now they won’t have to. I think we’re really fortunate that we’re able to serve our patients for all of their neurosurgical needs.”

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