BOISE -- A local woman who had lost much of her vision can now see more clearly thanks to a new partnership at Saint Alphonsus that paved the way for a surgical method never performed at the hospital before.
This endoscopic and less invasive brain surgery was a milestone for the hospital and for our area. Two doctors from different departments worked together to remove a tumor in the woman's pituitary gland, restoring her sight and her quality of life.
"You never know how important your vision is till you start to lose it," the patient, Jodi Massie, said.
Things started getting blurry for Jodi about a year and a half ago.
"It was very hard for me to really focus on anything," she said. "It just got worse and worse and worse and at the end I had actually given up driving."
Massie ended up getting an MRI last winter and that's when doctors discovered a large, hard, benign pituitary tumor, about two inches in diameter.
The pituitary gland is located at the bottom of your bran and above the inside of your nose. It's responsible for regulating many hormones if your body. Doctors say Jodi's tumor filled the entire pituitary gland, thus, compressing her optic nerves and affecting her vision.
"I am sure that if it had gotten big enough, it would have completely cut off blood supply to my optic nerve and I would have been totally blind if it had gone on," Massie added.
While she was relieved there was a solution to her problem, Jodi was nervous that the surgery might be aggressive and invasive - which is true about the traditional method.
"Previously an incision was made underneath the lip and a lot of tissue was removed to access the same area we're talking about," Saint Alphonsus Ear, Nose & Throat physician Dr. Don Beasley told KTVB. "So a microscope used to be used as opposed to these endoscopes."
Jodi says she was thrilled when doctors told her they could perform an endoscopic pituitary surgery, also called transsphenoidal endoscopic surgery. This is the standard and most common way to remove pituitary tumors but it had never been done at Saint Alphonsus before.
"Within just a couple days the fuzzy veil had started to lift, and colors were brighter and i was able to see better."
Neurosurgeon Dr. Ondrej Choutka brought the method to Saint Alphonsus when he started last year.
"No cuts involved and we get through the bottom of the skull and go inside the brain," Dr. Choutka said.
Dr. Chotka partnered with Dr. Beasley, who says it was his first time doing this specific surgery.
"It was very exciting, very rewarding. It was challenging," Dr. Beasley added.
He's very familiar with nasal and sinus surgeries using endoscopes, which is why Dr. Choutka asked for his assistance. Dr. Beasley says there's one pair of sinuses behind the eyes which allows him to gain access to the part of the brain where the pituitary gland is.
"You can gain access to this part of the brain by opening up the roof of the sinus cavity. This is where the pituitary gland sits and that's where pituitary tumors occur. So we go in through the nose with these lighted scopes, open up the roof of the sinus cavity - which is the flood of the pituitary tumor - then he removes the tumor through that access point."
The effects of the ability to do this endoscopic surgery here in the Treasure Valley are huge: it allows for shorter recovery and better results and it means patients that want the best, least invasive, surgery don't have to go out of state to get it done.
"Medicine has seen that things have moved to smaller approaches, less invasive, more comfortable for the patient.," Dr. Choutka told KTVB. "By joining different services together and collaborating, we actually create better care."
"I seriously had somebody up there looking out for me to have brought this man combined with Dr. Beasley and made him available to me," Massie added.
Both surgeons are attending a course in New York next week together to hone in their skills. They say they look forward to doing more of these surgeries in Boise in the future.