What is Stereotaxy?

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  • Written By: Harriette Halepis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 October 2019
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Stereotaxy, also called stereotactic surgery, is a type of minimally invasive brain surgery that is performed using a three-dimensional system. The word stereotaxy is derived from the Greek word stereotactic, meaning "solid ordering." This system is particularly effective when it comes to operating on small parts of the body that are difficult to reach. Injections, implantation, stimulation, and biopsies are all frequently performed using stereotactic surgical procedures.

While seemingly a new surgical method, stereotaxy was actually created in 1908 by two British scientists. Sir Victor Horsley and Robert H. Clarke began using a Cartesian system on animals in order to understand certain ailments. This three-dimensional system was proven rather effective -- in fact, it is still used today in many neuroscience laboratories -- though it wasn't until 1947 that the method was used on human subjects.

Originally, stereotactic surgery was only performed on patients requiring brain surgery. With the help of computed tomography, an imaging method that creates two-dimensional X-ray images, surgeons were able to performed delicate operations will skill and ease. Today, stereotaxy is a common procedure that is used for a number of different reasons, though brain surgery remains the main goal.


Stereotactic surgery functions with the help of three important elements: a planning system, a device or instrument, and specific placement. Stereotactic systems are computer-based systems that include cross-sections of human anatomy. With the help of specific coordinates, these systems are able to find and locate specific areas of the body that require surgery.

With the guidance of stereotactic systems, surgeons are able to point a cannula, electrode, or probe into a very small area. In addition to helping surgeons repair veins, and insert medical instruments into very small spaces, stereotaxy is also used to operate on small tumors. Many different medical manufacturers design stereotaxy equipment. As this type of procedure becomes more important within the medical world, the demand for stereotactic instruments increases. Many brain tumors and lesions cannot be completely cured, though small operations prove to successfully eradicate some abnormalities.

Even in the case of an incurable brain tumor, surgeons still use stereotactic procedures to lessen a patient's symptoms during palliative care. In addition to human operations, stereotactic surgery is also used on animals requiring surgical attention. With the help of this surgical procedure, surgeons are now able to prevent a tumor from growing once a tumor has been detected.


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