Vision Preserved With an Innovative Approach to Brain Surgery

Eleven years of constant pain had left Rose Boehmer worn down and discouraged. Then she met Robert Spinner, M.D., a neurosurgeon at Mayo Clinic, who not only identified the long-hidden source of her pain, he and his surgical team eliminated it — returning Rose to a full and happy life.

Rose’s Neuro Problem

Rose Boehmer had endured chronic pain for so long, she’d forgotten what it was like to live without it.

“I have a condition called schwannomatosis,” Rose says. “It’s a rare form of neurofibromatosis that causes benign tumors to grow on my spinal and peripheral nerves.” Eleven years ago, one tumor in particular began to have a significant effect on Rose’s daily life. Although it went undiagnosed until recently, the tumor was on her sciatic nerve, and the agony it caused was extreme. “I was in constant pain,” Rose says. “I couldn’t do anything to get comfortable.”

Lying down or sitting up — the pain persisted no matter her body position. “The pain was actually worse when I lay down,” Rose says. “I was only getting a few hours of sleep at a time, and as such, I was constantly irritable, frustrated and angry.”

The pain wreaked havoc on Rose’s mental and physical health. “Eventually, the pain diminished my quality of life to the point where I didn’t feel like I had anything to look forward to,” she says. “Before the tumor, gardening, baking and photography had been some of my favorite hobbies. But the tumor had made them too painful to enjoy. I couldn’t even sit and read a book

“When Dr. Viozzi told Tammy, ‘We can fix this for you,’ we both started bawling right there in his office. It was the first real hope we’d been given in a long, long time.” – Rose Olson

The Procedure

Before their hope could turn into healing, Dr. Viozzi and his surgical team would need to surgically reshape and reposition Tammy’s facial structure.

“What we’re doing during this kind of surgery is moving all the bones below the eye sockets forward,” Dr. Viozzi says. “The surgery indirectly moves the soft tissue forward by moving the bones forward. The midface bones are moved forward, and that in turn pulls the soft palate and lateral sides of the throat forward and opens up the airway at that level. The lower jaw and the chin are then both brought forward, as well. That brings the tongue and the tongue base and the larynx up and forward.

“ It’s a complicated, time-consuming procedure that’s conducted with extreme care and precision. “It’s a big, big surgery,” Dr. Viozzi says. “The facial bones are carefully sectioned away from the skull base area, slid forward, and then held in place by small titanium plates and screws. Then over the course of six to eight weeks, the body will come in and lay down new bone, at which point the patient is healed.”

For Tammy, while healing after surgery did take some time, the results were apparent right away. “Once I had the surgery, there was some recovery, of course, but I experienced immediate results,” she says. “And when I went back to Mayo for a sleep study nine months after the surgery, my apnea was gone. My sleep scores were back to normal. That was just so amazing after everything I’d gone through before coming to Mayo Clinic.”

New peace of mind

Rose Boehmer had endured chronic pain for so long, she’d forgotten what it was like to live without it.

“I have a condition called schwannomatosis,” Rose says. “It’s a rare form of neurofibromatosis that causes benign tumors to grow on my spinal and peripheral nerves.” Eleven years ago, one tumor in particular began to have a significant effect on Rose’s daily life. Although it went undiagnosed until recently, the tumor was on her sciatic nerve, and the agony it caused was extreme. “I was in constant pain,” Rose says. “I couldn’t do anything to get comfortable.

” Lying down or sitting up — the pain persisted no matter her body position. “The pain was actually worse when I lay down,” Rose says. “I was only getting a few hours of sleep at a time, and as such, I was constantly irritable, frustrated and angry.”

The pain wreaked havoc on Rose’s mental and physical health. “Eventually, the pain diminished my quality of life to the point where I didn’t feel like I had anything to look forward to,” she says. “Before the tumor, gardening, baking and photography had been some of my favorite hobbies. But the tumor had made them too painful to enjoy. I couldn’t even sit and read a book because the pain was too distracting. It had taken all of the joy out of my life.”