Dr. Javer with Patrick Kinney

When an allergy is not an allergy: it’s a tumour

March 19th, 2019

For years, Patrick Kinney had been plagued by sinus problems he assumed were caused by allergies. One day, he decided he’d had enough. “I went to the doctor and said, ‘listen, we have to deal with this allergy issue.’” To his shock, a biopsy determined that his “allergy” symptoms were caused by a tumour in his sinuses, nestled against his brain and surrounding his right eye. He was not only in danger of losing his eye, but also of the mass turning cancerous.

Diagnosis in hand, Kinney did what many patients do: he went online. He read that surgeons typically remove this type of tumour by peeling back the scalp above the eyebrow across the top of the head. With the skin pulled back, they access the growth by removing a large chunk of bone from the forehead. The operation can leave a lot of scarring and take a long time to heal.

Kinney’s story is a good reminder not to put too much stock in medical information from the internet. In fact, his surgery involved only one small incision in his eyebrow. And the tumour itself, a little bigger than a grape, was ultimately removed through his nose.

Kinney had this remarkable experience because he was treated by Dr. Amin Javer, head of St. Paul’s Sinus Centre and one of the top sinus surgeons in the world. Dr. Javer used 3D virtual models made from photographs, CT, and MRI scans of Kinney’s sinuses and tumour. During the surgery, he guided his instruments, a tiny camera, and a light through Kinney’s nose and eyebrow. On the monitor, Dr. Javer could see his instruments overlaid on the 3D model, similar to the way a navigation system shows your car relative to the map, but in three dimensions and with pinpoint accuracy.

Thanks to these advanced tools and techniques – and a culture that supports innovation and research – surgeons at St. Paul’s can operate on areas deep inside the body – and deep inside the skull – with minimally invasive techniques and incredible results.

“When I woke up from surgery, I actually wondered what had gone wrong. I only had a couple of stitches in my eyebrow, so I assumed they had stopped the operation,” Kinney says. In fact, it was a complete success. The entire procedure took a little over three hours, roughly half as long as the more invasive surgery. And instead of spending two or three days in hospital, he went home the same day.

Kinney is now two years post-op and one of the things that continues to resonate is the incredible speed with which everything happened. “Once I saw Dr. Javer and he diagnosed the seriousness of my condition, I went straight to the front of the line. Within a week, I had all my scans and was on my way to surgery.”

Today, there isn’t even a trace of the incision in his eyebrow. “You’d never know I had such a miraculous operation. Thanks to Dr. Javer’s amazing skills, the tumour is gone, I didn’t lose my eye, and I have the life-changing gift of more time to spend with family and friends.”

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