Jessica Valenzuela suffered from headaches for years, and they only got worse when the Tucson woman became pregnant with twins.
After delivering her two boys in April, the headaches became debilitating. A scan revealed a softball-sized tumor on the right side of Valenzuela's brain.
That was July 1, the first day on the job for Dr. Travis Dumont, director of the Neurovascular Program and assistant professor of surgery at the University of Arizona Department of Surgery.
Bringing his expertise in neurovascular neurosurgery to UA, including using minimally invasive techniques to treat complex disorders of the brain, Dumont was able to cut off the blood supply to the benign meningioma before successfully removing it.
In the surgical procedure, Dumont placed a catheter in an artery in Valenzuela's leg and it traveled through her aorta and upwards toward the brain vessel. Using an x-ray, the catheter was precisely placed and a substance similar to super glue was injected through the catheter to block the blood supply to the tumor. A few hours later, Valenzuela underwent a craniotomy and the tumor was removed.
Three days later, Valenzuela was home with her husband and babies.
It was the first procedure of its kind at The University of Arizona Medical Center.
"The doctors and the staff were just great," said Valenzuela, a 30-year-old employee at The University of Arizona Health Network. "They kept our hopes so high and were so positive. They were wonderful."
Dumont said the ability to cut off the blood supply to the tumor before surgery – which had not been available at UAMC prior to his arrival – made surgery easier and safer for Valenzuela.
"Her risks with surgery were dramatically reduced," Dumont said. "Her recovery in the long term should be 100 percent, with almost zero chance of the tumor recurring. She is essentially cured of it."
It is likely that Valenzuela had the tumor for years, and pregnancy hormones caused it to grow dramatically. She had been told she had migraines and treated them with over-the-counter medication.
"They had me up the next day sitting in a chair," Valenzuela said. "I was walking around 24 hours after surgery. I was fine. It was painful but nothing like the headaches were."
"Brain surgery – no big deal," she said with a laugh.
Valenzuela is now back at work and enjoying life at home with her husband, Vidal Alejandro Valenzuela, and her two baby boys, Alejandro and Yadier, named for St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.
Had Dumont's neurovascular services not been available, Valenzuela might have been flown to Phoenix for the procedure.
"It was a perfect case for me because my specialty is endovascular interventions," said Dumont, who performs both minimally invasive and open surgeries.
"The good thing about performing this procedure in that manner is that even though it was a softball-sized tumor, there was basically no blood loss and her recovery was swift."
Dumont's arrival expands UAMC's service line with the addition of neurovascular interventions. He frequently attends to patients who have suffered stroke, aneurysm rupture, vascular malformation and carotid stenosis.
Said Valenzuela: "I thank Dr. Dumont for everything. It was absolutely perfect timing that he was in Tucson."
"Having Dr. Dumont and his neurovascular skillset greatly enhances our ability to treat a broad range of neurological disorders," said Dr. G. Michael Lemole, Jr., in the UA Division of Neurosurgery. "Patients with aneurysms, AVMs, stroke and complex tumors will get the highest level of care at UAMC. We are fortunate to have one of the brightest and best young neurosurgeons as part of our faculty."