As ABC News reported on Tuesday, Chris Murto's seizures of crying fits have been cured after suffering an average of 350 a month for his entire life.
Doctors diagnosed a rare type of benign tumor -- a hypothalamic hamartoma (HH) -- that would eventually cause up to 350 seizures a month by the time he was 13, and put him on medication, sometimes 25 pills a day.
But today, at 29, Murto is seizure-free, thanks to Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, the first in the country to treat HH tumors. The surgeons used new, minimally invasive laser-surgery techniques to burn out the tumor in his brain.
These gelastic seizures involved a sudden burst of energy, usually in the form of laughing or crying and can be uncomfortable. They can damage the brain and lead to progressive cognitive impairment.
Beginning when he was 5, Chris' parents logged his daily seizures on a chart, but they began to worsen as he grew older, disrupting his thought process and ability to learn. His IQ even dropped to 79 from 120 and his parents were told he would never live independently.
Murto had two options to help regulate his seizures – antiepileptic medication and adhering to a very strict diet called the ketogenic diet. Although the medication and diet drastically helped, Murto continued to experience a high number of seizures.
“At one point, I was having a seizure every few minutes,” says Murto. “It’s impossible to explain the amount of pain I was experiencing.”
HH tumors are an abnormal collection of cells that sit at the base of the brain near the hypothalamus, affecting only about 1 in 200,000 individuals -- only about 100 cases at any one time, according his neurosurgeon, Dr. Peter Nakaji.
Murto and his family researched new HH surgeries as they were introduced but considered them too risky. When they learned that Murto was a candidate for the new laser technology, which became available at Barrow Neurological Institute in November of last year, they decided that this was his best option.
The new minimally invasive brain surgery uses MRI-guided laser technology to destroy HH brain tumors. Once the laser is inserted into the skull, the surgeon uses MRI technology to make sure the laser precisely pinpoints the tumor. Once the laser reaches the tumor, it radiates, heating the tumor and effectively destroying the mass within seconds.
Emily Sutherlin is also the Pregnancy Examiner.
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