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Brain surgery gives mom new life

Dorothy Emer poses with her three children outside of their home. Ms. Emer lives in the moment and appreciates every day with her three children.
Dorothy Emer lives in the moment and appreciates every day with her three children.

Lenox Hill neurosurgeons treat mother of three after her asymptomatic brain tumor manifests symptoms

Whether it’s seeing a Broadway play, heading to the Jersey Shore or simply picking up school supplies, Dorothy Emer, 44, a mother of three from the Bronx, doesn’t take spending time with her family for granted.

Early this year, Ms. Emer started experiencing strange sensations in her left leg that traveled all the way up to her face. She also started to stutter. An MRI revealed that she had a large brain tumor pushing on the region of her brain that controls movement on the left side of her body. The tumor was also bleeding, which caused even more brain dysfunction.

Jason Ellis, MD, a neurosurgeon at the hospital’s Brain Tumor Center, and  fellow neurosurgeon John Boockvar, MD, successfully removed the tumor while preserving Ms. Emer’s motor function. “Through the grace of God, I got the best neurosurgeons,” she said. “My care at Lenox Hill was amazing.”

In addition to the large tumor, Ms. Emer had several smaller inoperable lesions in her brain. About a month later, Dr. Ellis and radiation oncologist Anuj Goenka, MD, performed Gamma Knife radiosurgery — precisely targeted radiation delivered as a single high-dose treatment rather than in multiple sessions as is typical for traditional radiation therapy. The technology also helps to preserve surrounding healthy brain tissue. Ms. Emer underwent a second Gamma Knife treatment one month later when yet another tiny metastatic tumor developed in another location of the brain.

Doctors determined that Ms. Emer’s brain tumors were melanoma, for which she also receives immunotherapy to help prevent the cancer from growing. Ms. Emer now undergoes MRI scans every one to two months to monitor her condition. “Her most recent scan shows she has no new lesions,” said Dr. Ellis. “And all of the lesions that were treated with Gamma Knife have disappeared or haven’t grown at all. And, clinically, she’s doing great. The treatments she’s getting definitely are working.”

While the experience has been an extremely difficult one, Ms. Emer has now learned to live in the moment. “I feel like every day I have something to look forward to,” she said. “I appreciate everything.”

New way to treat brain aneurysms

Lenox Hill Hospital now offers the new the PulseRider® device to manage a brain aneurysm — a weak area in a blood-vessel wall in the brain, causing the blood vessel to bulge or balloon out. The device, a T-shaped stent or metal tube, was approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 2017, and Lenox Hill was the first center in Manhattan to use it.

The PulseRider benefits patients with a large aneurysm near where a blood vessel divides. “Without this device, these patients would typically need a craniotomy, which is a much more invasive treatment,” explained Rafael A. Ortiz, MD, Lenox Hill’s chief of neuro-endovascular surgery and interventional neuroradiology. Or doctors would place multiple stents through an artery and into the blood vessels near the aneurysm.

The PulseRider device:

  • allows doctors to use less metal in the blood vessels of the brain, making it a safer procedure
  • is more adjustable and easier to maneuver
  • has a unique configuration, enabling the device to conform to the vessel walls
  • is retrievable and may be repositioned at any time during or after placement