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Colorado doctors pioneer better brain surgery

5:56 PM, Jul 8, 2012   |    comments
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He had to quit working as a truck driver and heavy equipment operator.

In March, his doctors discovered what was causing so much trouble. A colloid cyst was located deep inside his head, and something had to be done so that Curtis could, as he put it, "get back to life."

The traditional approach for this kind of brain surgery is to open a large hole in the skull and operate to remove the cyst. But, two doctors at the University of Colorado Hospital are teaming up on a much less invasive approach.

Neurosurgeron Allen Waziri and rhinologist (head and neck surgeon) Vijay Ramakrishnan are developing an approach to these types of operations that uses straw-like devices called cannulas, which allow for much smaller incisions.

The cannulas can go all the way to the spot in Couch's head that needs attention. One cannula contained a camera so the surgeons could see what they were doing. The others contained instruments that allowed the doctors to reduce the size of the cyst until it no longer bothers Curtis.

"We would expect him to bounce back from this quickly, much quicker than you would for a traditional surgery," Dr. Ramakrishnan said.

Curtis, 28, is originally from Kentucky but moved to Canon City with his family about seven months ago. He hasn't been able to work for about three years because he knew something was interfering with his ability to think and concentrate, but he only found out in March what was causing his symptoms. He says he stopped working voluntarily because he knew he couldn't operate heavy equipment safely.

His doctor in Pueblo referred him to University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, which performed the innovative surgery in June.

"Surgery is going toward more minimally invasive approaches," Dr. Waziri said. "And where possible, we're trying to decrease the amount of tissue that's damaged and decreasing the operative time and technology is helping with that."

Curtis is recovering at home in Canon City, where he says he's "doing better by leaps and bounds." 

If all goes well he hopes to be fully recovered and working again in about a month.

The UCH doctors believe this type of approach should become more common over time as they are able to demonstrate its effectiveness.

Colloid cysts are not cancerous, but can still cause a variety of symptoms including headaches, memory problems, dizziness and even death in some instances.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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