Removing Tumors, Preserving Memories

One wrong move during brain surgery can change a patient's personality forever. Now, doctors developed a new technique that allows them to remove a brain tumor without actually cutting through the brain. As Robyn Haines reports, it helped a busy mother recover with her memory intact. Scans revealed a tumor buried deep in Irene Henein’s brain. Surgeons cut open her skull, but they couldn't reach the mass without jeopardizing her memory. She lived with the tumor until she got pregnant again. Doctors said this time the mass had to go. Doctors Amin Kassam and Daniel Kelly created the brain port procedure at St. John’s Health Center. Instead of cutting the tissue, they work through a small tube. It forms a path leading to the buried tumor. Surgeons pull the tumor out through the tube. The brain then acts like a sponge. Compared to a craniotomy, the brain port procedure cuts recovery from a month and a half to two weeks, it lowers the risk of disrupting vital brain structures, and it allows surgeons to reach deeper into the brain. Doctor Kassam has performed more than 100 brain port procedures. The surgery is done at two medical centers: one in Santa Monica, California and one in Pittsburgh.

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