Friday, January 25, 2008

AV: Stereotactic

I think this would be a totally great name for a band, don't you? Or anything having to do with recording. Maybe I'll dibs it for a podcast. Yeah, that's what I'll do ... Dibs!

But all that aside, this word -- "stereotactic" is the first part of the phrase "stereotactic radiosurgery," which is what Aida will be having tomorrow, Saturday Jan 26 at 12:00 noon San Diego time.

She's being treated to remove (in rather Star-Trek fashion, if you ask me ...) a new tumor discovered during her most recent MRI of early January. It's about 1/2 inch and, as they have told us, it's the right size, right shape (round), and right location (not obscured by something else or close to something that could cause Big Trouble) to benefit from this procedure.

Just so you know what we're talking about (info from

Radiosurgery is a medical procedure which allows non-invasive brain surgery, i.e., without actually opening the skull, by means of directed beams of
ionizing radiation.

Stereotactic surgery is a minimally-invasive form of surgical intervention which makes use of a three-dimensional coordinates system to locate small targets inside the body and to perform on them some action such as radiosurgery.

What this means in Real Life
After the MRI results, we had a consultation with two of the Medical Trifecta (the Radiation Oncologist and the Neurosurgeon) who spent a lot of time with us asking and answering questions. I am pleased that they asked different questions than we did; doubly pleased that they seemed to have answers to our questions while we were under no particular pressure to answer everything they asked with near as much precision.

Then came the "fitting."

This is where the patient (Aida) lies on a CT scan bed and is fit for what ends up looking like a hockey mask. The material they use is amazing and, honestly, would be so much more cool to me if I had only heard about it second-hand. Then a bite guard and then, affixed to that, a "frame" about 7" x 4" with little 1/2" diameter grey balls at the junctures. This is the sort of technology they use to film athletes in body suits against a green screen for video games; it allows the camera to track motion in teensy tiny increments. (see below for examples of masks; the first one is shows the bite block and the attached frame; she wore a more full-face one of these for her treatments in July/Aug 2006)

When Aida is having the procedure, there are a couple cameras focusing on the little grey balls, which are attached to the bite guard which, in turn, is guided by her jaw which, as it turns out, is the apex of any motion made by the head. If the balls move outside of a set parameter, the xray machine stops and they reposition her.

The machine (pictured above) can rotate in many different dimensions (forward, back, around, up, down) independently of the table; this allows for very precise aim of the x-rays to the correct spot.

All of this was exhausting, the fitting.

But after all that, the procedure itself will take about 20 minutes. That's it. C'mon in, lie down, wait for it ... wait for it ... okay, done. See ya.

What to think about it all? I don't know, except for 1) I thank the gods that she is getting the kind of care she's getting, 2) her oncologist is fabulous and caring, 3) she's incredible ... courageous and scared and forthright and anxious and totally in love with our grandson, and ... finally 4) what the fuck?!?!?!

Like I said ... I don't know.

1 comment:

Rodney said...

It sounds creepy, strange, and disturbing. And it is absolutely amazing that the treatment existings. Good thoughts and prayers, and hopes things get less weird and less weird.