Sofia G.’s world was shattered when she learned that her daughter, Gianna, had a brain tumor. She was able to pick up the pieces, however, with help from pediatric neurosurgeon Arno Fried, MD. He removed the tumor using an advanced surgical technique at Goryeb Children’s Hospital, where visits from pet therapy dogs and other kid-friendly amenities made Gianna feel right at home during her stay.
Sofia knew there was something wrong with her daughter when she started experiencing unexplained seizures. She would stare straight ahead for several seconds and not remember what she said or did moments later. Frightened by these symptoms, Sofia took Gianna to her pediatrician, who confirmed the presence of a brain tumor using a computed tomography (CT) scan.
Highly-specialized treatment would be needed, so Sofia turned to Goryeb Children’s Hospital’s pediatric neurology program. Using a GPS system for the brain that’s built into the operating room at Goryeb, Dr. Friend found that Gianna’s seizures were originating in the right temporal lobe. He also concluded that her brain tumor was triggering a form of epilepsy.
According to Dr. Fried, epilepsy can occur at any age during childhood and in addition to brain tumors, can be caused by stroke, traumatic brain injury, infections, congenital brain defects, hydrocephalus and abnormal blood vessels in the brain. The first line of treatment to control seizures in most types of epilepsy is medication, but it’s not foolproof.
“About 20% of children with epilepsy are not well-controlled with medication,” says Dr. Fried. “These patients go into the epilepsy monitoring unit and are seen by a pediatric neurologist to determine if the seizures are coming from a single focus in the brain. Then we have a pretty good idea that we can control the seizures with surgery.”
Because Gianna’s seizures were not coming from an area of her brain that controlled vital functions, such as speech or memory, she was a good candidate for surgery.
“The results of this surgery are excellent, with the patient having a 60 to 90% chance of being seizure-free,” says Dr. Fried. “Remember, these are children who are having many, many seizures every week, sometimes every day, so to have them go from that to being seizure-free, you can imagine it’s extremely gratifying.”
Dr. Fried successfully removed Gianna’s tumor and within two weeks, she was able to resume her normal routine and even go swimming.
“Now, there’s a little girl who has a very good chance of being seizure-free for the rest of her life,” says Dr. Fried.