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Rare tumor may worsen heart disease

Delicate operation removes kidney from patient who needed a heart transplant.
Delicate operation removes kidney from patient who needed a heart transplant.

LAKE WORTH, Fla. – Every year in the United States, about 30,000 people receive vital organ transplants and one-in-ten of them will get a heart.

When Nicholas Sciortino was being evaluated for his heart transplant, doctors discovered a mass on one of his kidneys.

“At first they thought it was an aneurysm that fed the main artery to the kidney, then as they looked into it they saw that my adrenaline was through the roof; my heart was being bombarded and destroyed by this high adrenaline in my system,” he said.

Sciortino actually had a rare tumor on his adrenal gland called a Pheochromocytoma, which was worsening his heart problems, but removing it was tricky.

“What it does is it make operations very hard to perform because you’re taking someone who could potentially have a stroke in the operating room because of the high levels of adrenaline in the body,” said Dr. Nicolas Muruve, a urologist and surgeon with Cleveland Clinic Weston.

Although the tumor was benign, it was still dangerous because it was wrapped around his kidney which meant the only option was surgery.

“We were able to figure it out for him by using a left ventricular device system to keep the heart strong enough during the operation so we could remove the tumor,” Muruve said.

In September 2020 Sciortino was put on the transplant list and received a new heart in October.

Now he’s looking forward to one day resuming his job as a hairstylist.

“That’s what I did my whole life and I loved it and I want to do whatever I can do,” he said.

Experts don’t know what causes the type of tumor Sciortino had but they do tend to run in families so genetic testing is important.

Fortunately most of these tumors are not cancerous and won’t come back after they’re removed.

About the Authors:

Veteran journalist Kathleen Corso is the special projects producer for Local 10 News.

Kristi Krueger has built a solid reputation as an award-winning medical reporter and effervescent anchor. She joined Local 10 in August 1993. After many years co-anchoring the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., Kristi now co-anchors the noon newscasts, giving her more time in the evening with her family.