Andrew Sobieski loves to run. As a member of his school’s cross-country team and the junior varsity basketball team, this standout 15-year-old athlete was consistently on the move. But that all started to change when he began complaining of severe headaches, a blockage in his nose that obstructed breathing, and excessive mucus.
Andrew’s mother Christine realized his symptoms were more than just common cold and scheduled a doctor’s appointment. After an MRI was performed, the doctor diagnosed Andrew with an angiofibroma (a large invasive, noncancerous tumor composed of blood vessels). If not removed, this baseball-sized tumor that began in the nasal cavity and extended to the base of the skull could cause severe and permanent damage, including blindness and stroke.
The Sobieski’s visited several neurosurgeons in the Delaware area, although none provided an easy solution. They recommended an invasive procedure that involved making an incision from the corner of the eye to the top of the mouth. Not only would this procedure involve a lengthy recovery, but also would leave Andrew with a long scar. Apprehensive, the Sobieskis continued to seek the best and least invasive treatment.
Andrew’s ENT doctor referred him to a specialist at UPMC. After an initial phone consultation and a review of his medical records, the Sobieskis got the news they had hoped for. “They called and explained all about the procedure they were going to use to treat Andrew, and it sounded like the right thing to do,” explained Christine. “It was less intrusive than the other options available and best of all, Andrew wouldn’t have any facial scars.” Within a few days, the surgery was scheduled and the Sobieskis made the trip to Pittsburgh.
A team of neurosurgeons were able to remove the tumor through Andrew’s nasal cavity using the Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA) that was pioneered at UPMC. With this minimally invasive approach, surgeons were able to remove the tumor without disturbing Andrew’s brain, blood vessels, or critical nerves. “This whole ordeal has been a whirlwind, but after this surgery, I knew Andrew would be alright,” says Christine. “Everyone was so nice and knew exactly how to treat my son. It’s a great feeling to know these amazing doctors are out there.”
Shortly after his surgery, Andrew was released from the hospital and returned home to Delaware. His recovery process was longer than usual due to the size and location of the tumor, but within six weeks, he fully recovered and returned to being the active tenth-grader he once was. “I’m really happy with how everything turned out,” says Andrew. “I’m back to running, playing basketball, and doing everything I used to do before the tumor, and I have my doctors to thank for that.”
Our patient stories profile a number of patients who have had minimally invasive brain surgery at UPMC. Although everyone's care experience is unique, we hope that sharing these stories will help other prospective patients and their families better understand these procedures and their potential benefits.
Andrew's treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.