Surgeons use less invasive approaches to complex brain tumors

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – There are many different tumors of the brain, among them, skull base tumors.

In the past, surgery to remove these tumors was risky but new approaches are helping patients recover quickly and with full function.

As an I.T. Director, Thomas Lee spends a lot of time in front of a computer screen.

When he started having a bad headache one day last August, he thought it might be a migraine.

“And I continued to work for a few hours and then I was like ‘this is ridiculous. I’m just going to go home, maybe I’m getting Covid, the flu,’” Lee said.

But a few days later Lee was rushed to Broward Health for emergency surgery to remove a skull base tumor.

Neurosurgeon Dr. Daniel Klinger said it’s an abnormal growth that can occur behind the nose and eyes, near the ear and along the base of the skull by the pituitary gland.

“And they cause symptoms by pressure on the brain or pressure on critical structures and in this case, the patient had a pituitary tumor and it’s a benign tumor it’s one of the more common types of benign tumors that we see,” he said.

Klinger and his team employed an innovative surgical technique that uses the nostrils and nasal sinuses as natural pathways to remove the tumor.

“Think about nasal sinuses those are air-filled passages so we create a kind of corridor there to access the base of the skill so we can remove the tumor from below so we’re not disturbing the normal brain,” he said.

Because of the size and location of the tumor, there were concerns it could permanently damage Lee’s vision but thankfully it’s returned 100%.

“I mean I definitely last year felt like I won the Powerball. Most people I’ve come in contact with would never know i was sick or anything took place so pretty incredible, pretty grateful and happy to be on the road to improvement,” Lee said.

Another minimally invasive approach is called keyhole surgery which is done through a small opening in the skull that limits damage to the surrounding scalp, muscle, and most importantly, brain tissue.

These approaches are not suited for all types of tumors and skull base locations.

About the Authors:

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.

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