Keyhole Brain Surgery Benefits Oklahoma Patients

OU Medical Center one of a handful nationwide now offering the procedure

For decades, brain surgery for tumors and other brain diseases has involved long scalp incisions, large invasive openings, long hospital stays and a significant impact on the patient’s quality of life. Now, Oklahoma patients are benefiting from a new, less invasive surgical technique at the OU Medical Center.brain-surgery-brief

“Recent advances in anesthesia, imaging technology and surgical techniques have provided us with the ability to remove brain tumors through much smaller openings. For many tumors, we can now remove them through openings as small as an inch and a half to 2 inches, without compromising safety or effectiveness,” said Michael Sughrue, M.D., a neurosurgeon at OU Medical Center.

Sughrue is also director of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Brain Tumor Center and an assistant professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery at the OU College of Medicine.

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The new technique is called keyhole surgery.  The name refers to the ability to see an entire room through the keyhole of a door by simply changing the angle of viewing frequently. It works much the same way with the surgical approach.

“It does not differ much from traditional brain surgery except that it aims to open the head as little as necessary – no more and no less - to achieve the surgical goals,” Sughrue said. “With keyhole strategies, we use computer software to help keep the openings small and well-targeted to the needs of the specific surgery.”

Michael Cotton, 59, of Harrah never thought much about brain surgery until he learned the headaches he’d been experiencing were caused by a tumor in his brain.

“That was kind of hard to take, but they were very nice and they sent me to OU Medical Center,” Cotton said. “I even had a friend call and he said they prayed at church to send a hundred angels to surround the hospital to help me get well and I told him that all the angels came inside dressed as doctors, nurses, and cafeteria people. None of them stayed outside and I felt very blessed that they were there.”

In surgery, Dr. Sughrue utilized keyhole techniques to locate and then carefully remove Cotton’s tumor through an opening about as wide across as a silver dollar. He said the key benefits of this new approach are clearly evident to anyone who witnesses the techniques firsthand.  There is less pain, fewer complications and a more rapid recovery.

“Most patients are able to go home a day or two after surgery, often with only minimal pain medication.  Some patients are able to return to work within a few days of their surgery and most resume normal activities within days,” he said.

Cotton said he felt good enough to be up and around even before his doctors wanted him to be so.
“They had to keep me down. I kept getting up and kept getting in trouble because I wasn’t supposed to walk by myself and I would get up and go wandering sometimes,” he said with a smile.

Sughrue said an additional benefit is that cancer therapies like radiation, which are typically delayed for a month following traditional surgery, can be started much sooner with the small incisions utilized with the keyhole approach.

“The bottom line is that the minimally invasive techniques we employ aim to get patients back to their normal lives as fast as possible given their diagnosis,” he said.

OU Medical Center presently is one of only a handful of centers in the entire nation performing keyhole brain surgery.   

Cotton said he is so grateful that he was able to benefit from the new surgical techniques. The self-proclaimed “professional hobbyist” praised his surgeon and the entire team at the OU Medical Center for helping to quickly get him back to the business of life, which currently includes spoiling his six grandchildren and spending time developing his latest passion – painting.

“As I said, I am not ready to give up on life yet.  I’ve got too much living to do. If they weren’t there, life would be very different and I thank every single one of them and feel very blessed they were there.  They do good work,” Cotton said, fighting back a tear. “They truly do.”

In Attendance

Michael Sughrue, M.D.
Neurosurgeon, OU Medical Center

Michael Cotton

Harrah, OK


Media Contact: Theresa Green
Phone: (405)833-9824
E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



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