10:29 AM

Complex neurosurgical procedures now available at Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital

Multispecialty team performs first endoscopic pituitary tumor removal

McHenry First Pituitary Tumor

When Dale Stanish developed an intense headache, blurred vision and vertigo, it nearly stopped him in his tracks. When testing revealed the Ingleside resident had a pituitary tumor, he was relieved to not have to travel far for surgical treatment. He became the first patient at Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital to undergo resection of a pituitary tumor through the nose.

The minimally invasive surgery is done using a tiny endoscope camera and light to remove tumors with long instruments inserted through the nostrils. McHenry Hospital has recently significantly invested in developing neurosurgery, ear nose and throat (ENT) surgery and neurological critical care. Many patients, Stanish included, who previously required a transfer to other institutions can now receive world class care in McHenry County.

“It is a very delicate surgery due to the location of the pituitary at the base of the skull close to the optic nerves, carotid arteries and sinuses,” said Michael Caron, MD, neurosurgeon at Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital. “We were fortunate to assemble a team of highly experienced physicians to now offer this surgery locally.”

The surgery requires a team approach. ENT surgeon Mobeen Shirazi, MD, a specialist in sinus surgery, drilled small holes in bones behind the nose and sinus to create a pathway to the pituitary. Once the final thin bony structure under the pituitary was opened up, Dr. Caron removed the tumor in small pieces. During the procedure, surgeons use computer-assisted neuro-navigation, similar to a fighter jet navigation system.

“Once the tumor is removed, we patch the hole in the bone. The nasal mucosa grows back over the patch,” said Dr. Caron. “Patients heal very well, and the cure rate, depending on the type of pituitary tumor is as high as 90%.”

Just three weeks after the surgery, Stanish returned to his job as head of inventory for a paper company. He says his coworkers were astonished to see he didn’t have his head shaved or a scar.

“I’m so happy to have avoided a hole in my head, and I was grateful to have surgery close to home,” said Stanish. “My sister traveled from several hours away and stayed at my house. She and my father-in-law could easily visit me during my week in the hospital.”

Dr Caron reviewing scansNorthwestern Medicine established neurosurgery services at McHenry Hospital and Huntley Hospital in February 2021 under the direction of Michael Walsh, MD, chief of neurosurgery, Northwestern Medicine Health Network.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have high caliber surgeons with valuable experience. This successful pituitary surgery marks a particularly special milestone in the growth of the program at McHenry Hospital,” said Dr. Walsh. “It is a real honor and joy to be able to improve the delivery of care to local residents.”

George E. DePhillips, MD, joined the neurosurgery program in August 2021 with a focus on spinal surgery. Dr. Caron, and Kevin Jackson, MD, members of the Northwestern Medicine Department of Neurological Surgery, joined the local team in August 2022. Dr. Caron, a neurosurgeon with more than 30 years' experience, began to develop a brain and pituitary tumor program.

To support the brain tumor program, Northwestern Medicine invested in a new neuro navigation system, operative microscope, and tumor ultrasonic aspiration instrument at McHenry Hospital. ENT instruments and endoscopes were purchased to facilitate the first trans nasal endoscopic resection. The next step is the development of a formal brain tumor clinic.

The program requires coordination among a large staff. Stanish’s treatment team included Alok Patel, MD, critical care neurologist; Adam Tiagonce, MD, anesthesiology; and Ayla Bakar, MD, endocrinology. The large support team consisted of a physician assistant, operating room (OR) nurses, OR and intensive care unit leaders, an equipment vendor coordinator, vendor representatives and additional staff.  

“Now we can perform surgery close to home for 80 to 90 percent of patients with brain tumors in the McHenry and Huntley areas,” said Dr. Caron. “Additionally, we are a destination for patients in Rockford and southern Wisconsin who want to access the Northwestern Medicine system.”

Anchored by Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Northwestern Medicine is among the nation’s leading centers in comprehensive care for brain, spine, and nervous system disorders. Northwestern Memorial Hospital is consistently ranked among the top 10 neurology and neurosurgery programs in the country by U.S. News & World Report.