Children's Hospital offers young brain tumor patients surgical options

August 30, 2010

Hershey, Pa. — Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital is just the third children’s hospital in the United States and the first in the Eastern region of the country to acquire a new, minimally invasive neurosurgical medical device that makes pediatric brain and spine tumor removal faster and easier. The NICO Myriad has been used in removing brain tumors in children as young as 8 months and can be used in removing many of the most common malignant and non-cancerous pediatric brain and central nervous system tumors.

“The Myriad represents the most significant advance in minimally invasive neurosurgery in the past decade,” said Mark Dias, director of pediatric neurosurgery at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. “In particular, its use in endoscopic neurosurgery will substantively move the field forward, allowing neurosurgeons much greater flexibility than ever before.”

There are nearly 7,000 newly diagnosed childhood brain and spine tumors annually in the United States. Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital performs approximately 600 pediatric neuroscience-related procedures every year. Using the Myriad device is expected to provide notable reductions in surgical procedure times -- sometimes cutting operating room time in half. It is the first automated and non-heat producing tumor removal device to operate in open and endoscopic surgical approaches, giving surgeons like those at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital the ability to treat a wider spectrum of disease conditions and remove tumors from hard-to-reach areas of the brain and spine.

For the parents of 11-year-old Nathaniel Murphy, the device meant their son wouldn’t have to endure an open-skull surgical procedure to remove a benign, but growing tumor deep in his brain. Doctors diagnosed Nathaniel, at age 3, with neurofibromatosis, a disease that makes people more susceptible to developing tumors in the nervous system. Two years ago, a benign tumor started growing, pressing on nerves that caused headaches, nausea and vision problems. When symptoms got worse three weeks ago, Nathaniel’s parents brought him from their Hazleton-area home to the Children’s Hospital for surgery and said they were elated to learn about the Myriad, which offered a less invasive procedure for their son. Instead of an 8- or 9-inch incision to accommodate multiple tools and removal of part of Nathaniel’s skull, the pediatric neurosurgery team was able to use a small, 1-inch hole to insert the Myriad device and access the tumor more easily.

“Any time your child has to have brain surgery, it’s a big deal, so we were nervous,” Nathaniel’s father Rodney Murphy said. “But to me, it was exciting to know there was this kind of tool to limit the intrusion into his brain, to let them get in and do what they needed to do, and get back out.”

The Myriad device can be used in a number of pediatric neurosurgical cases, including the most common benign (noncancerous) and localized tumors as well as the more aggressive, highly malignant (cancerous) primary brain tumors. The device’s slender design and malleable tip allows for superior control and precise surgical work that is delivered by the physician through a foot pedal operation. The tool makes it easy for physicians to move from delicate tissue shaving near or on critical structures, such as optic nerves and carotid arteries, to rapid tissue removal of large, more fibrous tumors without multiple insertions of different devices.

Especially important for pediatric surgeries is the device’s small diameter and long tip length, which make it particularly useful in the removal of masses deep in the brain, either through traditional open craniotomy or by the less invasive endoscopic technique. “It would have been extraordinarily difficult to reach Nathaniel’s tumor any other way,” Dias said. The device is compatible with any standard endoscope and can be manipulated down the working channel for the safe removal of tumors.

“We believe the device is a market enabler, meaning that it will enable significant advances in the minimally invasive neurosurgical market that can lead to better patient care and better outcomes,” said Jim Pearson, president and CEO of NICO Corporation. “We expect the Myriad will help revolutionize the pediatric and adult neuro and spine tumor removal market as we know it today. Penn State Hershey can be considered among the leaders of this revolution, and they will help take pediatric neurosurgery to the next level of advanced technology in tumor removal that is better for the young patients they care for.”

Brain tumors are the second most common malignancy among children younger than 20 years old.

The Myriad system was purchased with support from the Four Diamonds Fund, an organization that saw the benefit of this technology to the patients it serves -- children fighting cancer at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital.

Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital is the only children’s hospital in central Pennsylvania. Physicians and nurses at the hospital provide comprehensive support and specialized care to infants, children and adolescents every day. With a focus on providing first-rate health care to children with complex heart disease and childhood cancers, the Children’s Hospital allows patients to receive the highest quality of care close to their homes.

The Children’s Hospital includes the highest level neonatal intensive care unit, a leading pediatric intensive care unit and the only pediatric trauma center in the region. For more information, visit http://www.pennstatehershey.org/childrens online.

The Myriad system uses technology developed over 20 years and is used in several surgical specialties, including brain and spine tissue removal. To learn more about the Myriad at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, go to http://www.pennstatehershey.org/pediatricneurosurgery online. For more information about NICO Corporation or the NICO Myriad system, visit http://www.niconeuro.com/ online.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated August 30, 2010