Brain surgery through the eye socket

New research determines that physicians don't have to saw off the top of the skull to conduct many kinds of brain surgery -- rather, they can just go in through the eye socket. Medical doctors from the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine and University of Washington Medical Center published their findings on transorbital neuroendoscopic surgery (TONES) in the scientific journal Neurosurgery. It's long been possible for surgeons to access the brain through the nose, but apparently requires much more equipment and people. (This is fascinating on its own, but I also wanted the chance to post this great comic panel that Klint Finley used to illustrate his post about the research at Technoccult.) From UC San Diego Newsroom:
Panelbraineyeee “By performing surgery through the eye socket, we eliminate the need for a full craniotomy, gain equivalent or better access to the front of the  brain, and eliminate the large ear-to-ear scar associated with major brain surgery,” said Chris Bergeron, MD, assistant professor of Surgery, Division of Head and Neck Surgery, at UC San Diego Health System.

To achieve access, the surgeons make a small incision behind or through the eyelid. A tiny hole is then made through the paper-thin bone of the eye socket to reach the brain. This pathway permits repairs to be made without lifting the brain. The TONES approaches also protect the optic nerves, the nerves for smell, as well as the carotid and ophthalmic arteries.

“This approach has opened a new field of brain surgery,” said study investigator, Kris Moe, MD, chief of the Division of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and professor of Otolaryngology at University of Washington Medical Center. “The advantages to this transorbital approach are many, including reduced pain and decreased recovery time for the patient.”

"Scarless Brain Surgery Is New Option for Patients" (indirect thanks, Chris Arkenberg!)


  1. By the by, the comic panel is from a true crime comic by Jack Cole, reproduced in whole in “Jack Cole: Forms stretched to their limits”, a biography of the artist by Art Spiegelman

  2. I also wanted the chance to post this great comic panel

    I’m with the above posters. This may be the most subjective usage of the words “great” and “comic” I’ve seen all week. Puts me right off my Taco Bell.

    No unicorns for me, though. I’ll just scroll on down to the smoking bat-winged Pegasus and I’ll be right as rain!

  3. This isn’t exactly new, and the comic is a reference to its prior use: the Trans-orbital Lobotomy. Rather than cutting open someone’s head, you could perform a lobotomy by sticking an ice pick thru the back of the eye. It was performed often enough to make you cringe. The particular comic is a reference to a famous death from a botched lobotomy. Check the PBS website for the special “The Lobotomist” for the details, or check your local wikipedia or library.

    1. That’s true, doing lobotomies through the eye socket isn’t new. But the surgeries they’re talking about in this research aren’t lobotomies.

  4. The kind of procedure you might want your doctor to describe for you afterwards. “Trust me, kid — if I tell you how we do it, you won’t agree to have it done.”

  5. My first reaction is definitely ewwwww. But when you compare this to having part of your skull removed, it starts to look pretty good by comparison.

  6. Didn’t Sean Connery nearly get one in… some 60s film?

    Just remember the scene where the doctor is demonstarting the procedure on a dummy and the eye pops out as he inserts the instrument…

  7. I think that it is very cool that they have discovered
    this new method because this way patients will recuperate
    better and it will also lower a lot of the risk that this operation comes with.

    i also believe that it will be easier for Doctors to use
    this new method and it make it possible for many patients
    that could not use the previous method to have this new way
    to have the operation done.

  8. “By performing surgery through the eye socket, we … eliminate the large ear-to-ear scar associated with major brain surgery”

    He makes it sound like a large ear-to-ear scar is a BAD thing!

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