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Healthy You

Tiny Incision, Mighty Results! Skull-Based Tumor Removed Without Ever Touching the Brain

Tuesday, January 25, 2022 4:14 PM

By Brian Justice

“My mother always told me, ‘Health is everything!’ and I took her excellent advice.”

For more than 25 years, Stephen Steinhaus of Highland Park followed that wise guidance. The industrial psychologist has been meticulous about his health, exercise and diet. Even subtle changes in his body did not go unnoticed, including some strange symptoms that developed out of the blue.

“I had an odd feeling in my feet and felt some pressure in my head,” Steinhaus, 66, recalled. “I didn’t waste any time scheduling an MRI to see what was going on.”

What was going on was a potentially-dangerous tumor.

Finding the Right Care Partner
Initially seen by the neuro-oncology team at NorthShore Neurological Institute, Steinhaus was diagnosed with a benign tumor called a meningioma. The tumor doesn’t form within the brain itself, but on its lining. But, because the skull is rigid, the tumor can grow inward and push on the brain, nerves and blood vessels.

Fortunately, Steinhaus did not require immediate surgery, just an annual MRI to closely monitor his condition. “I remember my wife and me walking down the hallway doing a kind of happy dance,” he said. “No immediate brain surgery!”

But that changed several years later. A follow-up MRI revealed that the tumor had grown large enough to potentially put pressure on his optic nerve. Something would have to be done within the next six months.

Steinhaus initially consulted a surgeon at another health system who recommended a large, highly invasive surgery with a recovery time of six months. Steinhaus thought it over and went for a second opinion with NorthShore Neurosurgeon Ricky Wong, MD, who specializes in leading-edge, minimally invasive techniques.

Tiny Incision, Mighty Results
Dr. Wong recommended a surgery that involves making a tiny incision along the side of his eye and a small hole in the skull no larger than a quarter. Then, using microscopes and endoscopes, the surgeon would remove the tumor without ever touching the brain. Steinhaus was all in.

“We pioneer new technologies to make our surgeries smaller and much less invasive so we can safely remove tumors while saving and preserving parts of the brain with critical function,” explained Dr. Wong, who holds an academic appointment at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.

Steinhaus is still in awe of his accelerated recovery. Two days after the so-called “keyhole” surgery, he was out of the hospital. A week later was able to drive and return to work. “It was nothing short of miraculous,” he said. Steinhaus also is back to his regular routine including frequent exercise.

“We’ll continue to monitor Stephen periodically,” added Dr. Wong. “But we consider the successful removal of this type of tumor to be completely curative.”

“This was above and beyond anything I could have hoped for,” said Steinhaus. “I’m eternally grateful to Dr. Wong and the entire NorthShore team.”