Health Beat

Health Beat: Keyhole brain surgery solves some ear infections

PHILADELPHIA - Agnes McFadden, a mother and grandmother, loves to travel and cook, but three years ago, when her ear began leaking massive amounts of fluid, she had to put her life on hold.

"My pillows every night were completely covered by the morning," McFadden said.

McFadden was diagnosed with TE, meaning a hole in her temporal bone, which forms part of the skull, had to be surgically repaired. The pulsating of her brain had created just enough pressure for cerebral fluid to go where it shouldn't--- through a hole in her skull.

"It actually has a shelf, and the brain sits on top of it and it's through that shelf bone that is oftentimes very thin. The brain can have a defect and the bone can have a defect, and so the brain material and fluid from the brain can get into the ear space," explained Dr. Kadir Erkmen, vice chair of neurosurgery at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia.

As soon as her ear infections stopped, McFadden underwent groundbreaking endoscopic keyhole neurosurgery. The unique operation uses tiny cameras inserted through an incision, less than two inches long, to repair the skull.

"Before, we had to make a very large incision and shave half the head, and then put in retractors that really pushed the brain down, in order to repair these areas," said Dr. Pamela Roehm, the director of otology and neurotology at Temple University School of Medicine.

This approach, using the endoscope, was the brain child of Erkmen and Roehm. It offers better visualization and has very little impact on the healthy tissue. The keyhole surgery uses bone, muscle, and a suture to seal up the hole.

Doctors said the defect can be present at birth, caused by a severe head injury or even be the result of numerous ear infections, but no matter how it happened, McFadden is back to business as usual.

"Wonderful," McFadden said. "Like nothing ever happened."

Doctors said that because a major risk of this condition is the possibility of spinal fluid entering the ear, meningitis can occur. So, if you have recurrent ear infections and antibiotics haven't worked, be sure to ask your physician about other possible causes, like TE.

McFadden's total recovery time was around three months.

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Allentown, PA 18102




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