Laser interstitial thermal therapy (LITT) is a minimally invasive surgical technique that uses a small laser to destroy unhealthy brain tissue. It can be an effective treatment option for recurrent brain tumors, radiation necrosis, and tumors that form deep within the brain. It is also used to treat certain types of epilepsy. Duke is among the top institutions for the number of LITT procedures performed each year in the U.S.
Also called laser ablation or thermal ablation, LITT provides the benefits of traditional brain surgery with less risk and a shorter recovery time. Because the procedure is minimally invasive, it is especially appropriate if you have undergone prior surgery or radiation or if you have a health condition that increases your risk with traditional brain surgery.
Conditions Treated with LITT
- Returned after surgery or radiation therapy
- Is deep within the brain and may otherwise be inoperable
- Is smaller than three centimeters
Radiation necrosis is a side effect that can occur months or years after radiation therapy for a brain tumor. It is a form of inflammation that can cause permanent loss of brain tissue. It can be difficult to differentiate between radiation necrosis and a recurrent tumor.
LITT may be recommended if you are diagnosed with seizures that:
- Are resistant to medications
- Originate from a well-identified area in the brain
Evaluation for LITT Surgery
If a brain tumor is suspected, your doctor may order imaging scans to determine whether LITT is the best option for you. People with epilepsy will go through an epilepsy-specific surgical evaluation process.
In both cases, you will undergo an MRI, which will be used during the LITT procedure to map your brain. You may also complete a pre-anesthesia assessment to ensure you are healthy enough for surgery.
LITT surgery is performed at Duke University Hospital. Duke clinics offer care before and after surgery.
Why Choose Duke
Team of Experts
A large team of experts are involved in LITT evaluation and surgery including neurosurgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, neurologists, epileptologists, anesthesiologists, radiologists, and more. This thoughtful approach and collaboration results in thorough care and better outcomes.
Highly Experienced Team
Duke was an early adopter of the LITT procedure, and our neurosurgeons have been recognized for the high number of LITT procedures they perform each year. Research shows that hospitals and surgeons who perform more surgeries tend to have better outcomes. As an academic teaching hospital, we rely on our extensive experience performing LITT when training surgeons.
Patient Navigators Guide Your Care
Our patient navigators, some of whom are nurses, and care coordinators guide you and your loved ones through the complexities of receiving care from multiple specialists. Often, more than one appointment can be scheduled on the same day, for your convenience. The patient navigator facilitates your access to the comprehensive support services available at Duke.
Duke researchers are always studying how to improve LITT technology. As a Duke patient, you may be eligible to participate in clinical trials that would give you access to the latest breakthroughs before they are available elsewhere.
Where you receive your care matters. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our neurology and neurosurgery program is nationally ranked, and the highest ranked program in North Carolina by U.S. News & World Report for 2020–2021.