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Robotic Microscope Helping Surgeons During Delicate Brain Tumor Removal Procedures

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- There is amazing new technology that's helping surgeons perform the most delicate of all operations -- brain surgery.

It saved the life of a Westchester County teenager whose headaches were from a brain tumor, CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez reported Tuesday.

Christina Giuffrida's brain tumor was benign, but even benign brain tumors can be deadly. There's just no room in the skull for a tumor to grow and when it starts pressing on vital brain areas, bad things start to happen.

Removing a brain tumor without causing more damage is very delicate work.

Giuffrida was a normal, active and apparently healthy 18-year-old, just going to school and living the life. Then she started getting headaches, plus some other symptoms she didn't think were related.

Brain tumor microscope
(Photo: CBS2)

"The headaches, they were almost a 9 at times," Giuffrida said, describing her pain on a scale of 1-10. "The swallowing was when I was like eating almost, I would find it hard to push down the food."

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Still, Christina never thought it was anything really serious, until one morning when the pain was so bad she went with her mom to the emergency room.

"He took the CAT scan. He did one of my head as well with the throat and they said that they found a tumor sitting on the left side of my brain," she said.

It was some tumor, large and pressing on her brain stem and several vital cranial nerves. Even though it was benign, Dr. Constantinos Hadjipanayis, director of neurosurgical oncology for the Mount Sinai Health System, told Gomez that it could lead to devastating consequences.

"She could go deaf on the left-hand side. She could have paralysis of her face. She could lose the ability to swallow. She could have problems with her balance," Dr. Hadjipanayis said.

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Christina's only option was brain surgery. Fortunately, Dr. Hadjipanayis had begun using a new high-tech microscope that's a cross between a super high-def digital scope, a robotic arm and a GPS system that allows him to know exactly where his instruments are in the brain, combined with a heads-up display of important brain images.

Now, just six months after surgery, Christina is happy and healthy.

"Right now, I'm doing amazing. Like, I feel so much better. In school, at work. I'm doing better than I actually was before," she said.

There is a small chance that the tumor could grow back, but because it's benign and very slow growing, doctors will be able to catch it with the regular brain scans Christina will continue to have.

Synaptive, the maker of the robotic microscope, is releasing an even more advanced version soon that will enable neurosurgeons to safely remove even more tumors without damaging a normal brain.

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