"Brain surgery was the scariest situation to face but I was in good hands at Emory."

Katie ReedI've had terrible sinus issues my whole life and had gone to see an Otolaryngologist (ENT) at Emory to get his opinion about whether or not I needed another surgery. He did an initial CT scan and found that the upper temporal lobes of my sinuses were completely blocked and that I did need surgery to clean them out. The week I was scheduled for surgery I went back for another CT scan of the entire brain in preparation for sinus surgery. My doctor called me the day before my scheduled surgery and said the radiologist who reviewed the scan found a colloid cyst in my brain and that the cyst was blocking the flow of spinal fluid draining through my brain system, a condition called hydrocephalus.

A colloid cyst is a type of cyst that starts growing in utero and as you grow, it grows. It is considered a benign tumor but eventually gets big enough to block spinal fluid or cause too much pressure on the brain. My cyst got big enough to where it was causing problems and had to be removed. It was a huge blessing that we found it when we did before I had really scary side effects.

My husband and I were willing to go wherever and do whatever. My ENT, Dr. James Orr, referred me to Dr. Costas Hadjipanayis. I didn't realize it at the time, but it was a huge blessing that he is the only doctor in the state of Georgia who can remove the cyst endoscopically and that the amount of down time and the rate of recovery for that type of surgery are hugely different from having an open craniotomy. We felt like we were in the best hands.

I had my surgery on October 26, 2007, at Emory University Hospital Midtown. It took two to three hours at most although I told them to take their time. The old way of doing the surgery and the way a lot of hospitals still do the procedure is that they shave your entire head and literally cut open the top of your skull to go in and get the cyst. The endoscopic procedure only requires that the side temple of the head be shaved. Dr. Hadjipanayis drilled a small hole big enough to put the endoscope in and weave it through my brain. A colloid cyst always develops in the third ventricle, deep down under everything. You can literally go in with the probe to rupture the cyst and suck it out. The old way of doing surgery requires physical therapy and speech therapy, and 20 years ago an operation like this would require a six-month recovery period. I've had none of that. I was only in the hospital three days.

Dr. Hadjipanayis prepared me well. He said you're going to need help for a month, especially with three small children. My mom had to move in with us because I couldn't bend over to pick up my children. My girls were ages five, three, and one at the time of my surgery. People were shocked that I had surgery on a Friday and the following Wednesday I was with my girls at church for a Halloween party. It turns out that the radiologist, Dr. Royden Daniels, who found my cyst, goes to my church. It was a blessing and a privilege to be able to thank him personally.

The prospect of brain surgery is the last thing anyone wants to face. It was the scariest thing I've had to go through. It was comforting to know that I was in a big city with Emory physicians at the top of their profession available to me. I was seeing a physician who actually pioneered the endoscopic procedure.

Now my horrible headaches are gone. I have no lingering side effects. Every once in a while I'll have short-term memory issues, but maybe that's typical with three small children ages six and under.

I've joined a Colloid Cyst Survivor's group on Facebook. People e-mail me with questions like, ‘how big was your cyst, where do you live, who did the surgery? Do you have to shave your head?' I'm happy to answer any questions about my experience.

Katie Reed, 35, Marietta, Georgia

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The Physician

Dr Hadjipanayis

Learn more about Constantinos (Costas) Hadjipanayis, MD, PhD