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Garry Lytle: Acoustic Neuroma

Headaches and vomiting led to the discovery of a large brain tumor across Garry's head. Experts at UPMC were able to remove the tumor and get Garry back to enjoying life.

The Challenge

As an avid golf player, Garry spent one June afternoon playing golf with his friends. After a long day on the golf course, Garry and his girlfriend, Sheila, went out to dinner to celebrate his game performance.

Once Garry arrived back at Sheila’s house after dinner, he experienced a terrible headache, extreme pressure in his left eye, and began vomiting.

Garry has glaucoma in his left eye, so he asked Sheila to drive him to his house to pick up his eye drops in hopes that those would alleviate his sudden pain.

On the drive to his house, he began throwing up even more and the left side of his face became numb. Garry and Shelia decided that he needed to seek medical care immediately, so they went to the nearest emergency room near his home in Hanover, Pa.

Garry underwent a CT scan, which revealed a large brain tumor located across his head. After further analysis, it was determined that the large mass was an acoustic neuroma — also known as vestibular schwannoma — which is a noncancerous tumor on the eighth cranial nerve, the vestibulocochlear nerve.

The team would be flown to UPMC Harrisburg for further evaluation.

The Path to UPMC

While Garry was being monitored at UPMC Harrisburg, there was a concerning glitch in his heartbeat that caused the medical team to place a temporary pacemaker on his arm to regulate his heartbeat.

Garry remained in the hospital for four days until it was decided that there was no problem with his heart. In fact, it was presumed that the heart abnormalities were likely related to his tumor, and that it would be best for him to seek surgical care at UPMC Presbyterian with Dr. Georgios Zenonos, associate director for the UPMC Center for Cranial Base Surgery and assistant professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery, and Dr. Andrew McCall, assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology.

Garry was discharged from UPMC Harrisburg and was looking forward to traveling to Pittsburgh for care.

However, he was still experiencing painful headaches and continued to vomit before he traveled to Pittsburgh, so he returned to the emergency room in Hanover, Pa. Garry was then flown to UPMC Presbyterian for immediate care.

The Care

Garry arrived at UPMC Presbyterian and underwent a series of tests to determine the best plan of action moving forward. On the specialized MRIs obtained, it appeared that there was bleeding within Garry’s sizable tumor, which was presumed to be an acoustic neuroma. The tumor was pushing against Garry’s brainstem, one of the most vital structures within his brain, and the bleeding significantly exacerbated his symptoms.

Dr. Zenonos and Dr. McCall decided that Garry needed urgent surgical care to remove the tumor and alleviate the compression of the tumor on his brainstem. Garry underwent a retrosigmoid craniotomy to remove the tumor, which lasted several hours.

After a short hospitalization, Garry was discharged from the hospital and returned home, surrounded by the care and support of his girlfriend, sisters, and son.

The Results

As part of the rehabilitation process, Garry began lifting hand weights every day and walking up and down the stairs to help regain functional mobility. He eventually began walking around the mall to increase his movement abilities.

“Before the surgery in July, I told Dr. Zenonos that my main goal was to be playing golf again. He had mentioned maybe next spring – As of October, I was able to play out on the course again!”

Since then, Garry also returned to work and no longer experiences the extreme pain he once had.

“I will never forget the dedication that Dr. Zenonos and Dr. McCall put into my medical care – they did not just treat me as another patient.”