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January 23, 2011

Staunton Man is among first in U.S. treated by new Gamma Knife

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Leroy Mayz, a retired plumbing contractor from Staunton, Virginia, is a passionate racquetball player who has returned to the court, thanks to brain surgery performed without a scalpel by the newest generation Gamma Knife at the University of Virginia Health System.

Mayz, a trim and fit-looking 69 year-old, was recently sidelined with a mystery ailment involving his tongue. “All of a sudden, I had trouble talking,” he recalls. His slurred speech indicated he may have had a stroke, but medical tests ruled out that possibility.

Ultimately, doctors discovered Mayz had a developed a tumor on a nerve that controls tongue movements and swallowing functions. Although small, the tumor was in a precarious location, close to his brainstem and upper cervical spine. Avoiding damage to these areas was a major consideration and challenge in determining how to treat the tumor.

A referral to UVA placed Mayz under the care of neurosurgeon Dr. Jason Sheehan, of the Lars Leskell Center for Gamma Knife Radiosurgery. The Leskell Center is one of the first facilities in the United States equipped with the latest generation of Gamma Knife – the Perfexion – which has unmatched accuracy and precision.

During Gamma Knife surgery, neurosurgeons treat problems inside the brain without cutting open the skull. They use a single dose of radiation so precisely targeted that nearby normal brain tissue is preserved. “This approach offers many benefits,” says Dr. Sheehan. “Since we do not use a scalpel, patients have no risk of hemorrhage, minimal chance of infection, and an excellent likelihood of success.”

According to Dr. Sheehan, the Perfexion has become the gold standard of radiosurgery equipment and did what no other device could do in treating Mayz – it delivered the most “biologically effective and conformal” dose of radiation possible. “No other radiosurgical or radiation therapy device could have offered such a favorable benefit-to-risk profile,” he adds. “Other treatment options – a craniotomy and tumor resection – would have been far more dangerous and required weeks of inpatient recovery and rehabilitation.”

Mayz went home the same day as his surgery and returned to the racquetball court within several weeks. Now able to speak normally again, he will return to UVA for a follow-up visit in six months. “We caught Mr. Mayz’s tumor early and expect him to do very well,” says Dr. Sheehan.

About the Lars Leskell Center for Gamma Knife Radiosurgery

UVA’s Gamma Knife team of physicians is one of the most successful and experienced in the world. Recognized globally as pioneers and leaders in intracranial radiosurgery, the physicians have treated patients from around the world and developed new treatment algorithms for minimally invasive brain surgery. In addition to offering the nation’s only accredited advanced radiosurgical training course for physicians, the UVA Leskell Center staff has published papers in many peer-reviewed journals, performed clinical and laboratory research, lectured worldwide and organized symposia that have drawn international participants. In the months ahead, the staff will explore additional indications for the new Perfexion.

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