Neurosurgeon Offers New Options for Tumor Management

In November 2010, when 59-year-old Debra Mende started experiencing short episodes when she could not speak, she knew something was wrong. Her primary care physician immediately followed up on the symptoms and learned from an MRI and CT scan that Mende had a lesion about the size of a quarter on the left side of her brain around her speech area.

The discovery meant that she needed brain surgery immediately to determine the nature of the tumor.

Fortunately for Mende, who lives in Centreville, there was an option to have the surgery done in nearby Easton by local neurosurgeon Khalid Kurtom, MD. Mende comments, “Dr. Kurtom is a very nice physician and values family in his practice. He wanted to meet my family and explain everything to them. That meant a lot to my family, especially my husband, as they wanted me to go over the Bridge for my surgery. Once they met Dr. Kurtom, they knew I didn’t need to do that.”

In order to diagnose Mende’s tumor, Dr. Kurtom had to perform an awake craniotomy. In this technically demanding surgical procedure, the surgeon exposes the brain while the patient is awake in order to get a tissue sample from the tumor without affecting the patient’s speech areas. The procedure involves the surgeon performing electrical testing of the surface of the brain to determine where the patient’s speech areas are located while doing a biopsy. The patient receives intravenous sedatives to relax and is able to talk throughout the procedure, which lets the surgeon know the exact location of the speech area.

Dr. Kurtom comments, “The significance of Debra’s story is that you see this surgery once every two to three years in a large medical center. This was the first awake craniotomy at Memorial Hospital and the first outside of a teaching institution in the region.”

Dr. Kurtom adds, “Debra tolerated the procedure well, with her speech in tact, and we were able to determine the type of cancerous tumor she has, which will help her in finding the best treatment options. Getting the complete diagnosis to know what type of tumor she has could not have happened without this procedure.”

Other benefits of Mende’s procedure were that she had a small incision and was only hospitalized two days following the surgery. Since the surgery, she has seen physicians who are helping her manage the cancer, which is predicted to be treatable and slow growing.

Mende, who was back to work five weeks after her brain surgery, comments, “Dr. Kurtom was very confident in how he approached my surgery, which gave me confidence in fighting this disease. Since my surgery, two of my friends have been operated on by Dr. Kurtom. He is making an impact here.”

Dr. Kurtom specializes in brain and spinal chord tumor management as well as minimally invasive spinal surgeries. Patients needing these advanced operations now have the option to receive treatment close to home. Dr. Kurtom’s focus on complete tumor resection, when possible, through minimally invasive approaches, is important and attractive to patients seeking care for these types of lesions.

Dr. Kurtom practices at Chesapeake Neurosurgical Services, 401 Purdy Street, Suite 204, in Easton. For more information or to make an appointment, call 410-820-9117 or visit